Loun Savath, a monk and rights activist who was detained by plain clothes security officials Thursday, was released that night, after he agreed to sign a letter vowing to stop leading and participating in protests. However, he has promised he will not halt his activism.
Loun Savath was seized while observing a protest by villagers of the Boeung Kak lake development project. He has become a common figure at land protests, vexing Cambodia’s Buddhist leadership.
Two protesters who were also arrested Thursday have not been released. Their arrest follows the rapid guilty verdict of 13 Beoung Kak protesters who were sent to prison Thursday for terms between one year and two and a half years.
“The contract is serious, and it affects not only me but everyone,” Loun Savath told reporters after his release.
The monk was forcibly arrested and detained Thursday by senior member of the country’s Buddhist hierarchy for more than 10 hours, following his participation and filming of a land rights protest by residents of Boeung Kak, who were angered by the arrest and trial of their 13 representatives. The pagoda remained sealed off for all of Thursday.
The monk said he was not to be defrocked, contrary to some reports. He called his detention “ridiculous” and “beyond what I can describe.”
Loun Savath, who is sometimes called the “multi-media monk,” has filmed and photographed a number of protests of forced evictions and sometimes performs blessings for the participants. He has been heavily censured by Buddhist leaders, many of whom are aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Last year, he was banned by Buddhist leadership from receiving room or board at any of the country’s pagodas.
But Loun Savath said Thursday he is following the teachings of Buddha by defending human rights and he vowed to continue his activism.