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Cambodian temple subject of U.N. rights probe

Posted: Friday, November 03, 2000

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- United Nations human rights workers and Cambodian officials are investigating claims of illegal detentions, torture and possible murder at a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh, a local newspaper reported.

The allegations against Wat Vongkot Borei include the disappearance of at least one young man and the illegal detention and beating of two others, said Marlene Alejos, chief of the monitoring and protection unit of the Cambodian office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

''The allegations against this pagoda are serious, and we have enough evidence to believe these victims have been tortured,'' Alejos told the English-language Phnom Penh Post.

The abbot, Men Chan Ponleu, could be stripped of monkhood if he becomes a suspect in the case, a Ministry of Religion official said.

''When a monk beats someone until they are injured, then he is not a monk anymore,'' said Dok Narin of the religion ministry. ''His robes must be taken away and he must be sent to court.''

Allegations against monks at the temple surfaced when two young men, aged 14 and 21, told human rights workers they were detained and beaten at the pagoda for 24 hours on Oct. 15, the newspaper reported.

More than 90 percent of Cambodians are Buddhists, and roughly 47,000 monks reside in 3,600 temples across the country.



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