Road Through Mosque Property in Phnom Penh Raises Cham Concerns

Bengali Sunni Jameh mosque in Yangon, Myanmar

Bengali Sunni Jameh mosque in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Hintha.

Hundreds of Cambodia’s Cham Muslims assembled on Friday at the Boeung Kak area’s Al-Serkal Mosque where the Phnom Penh city government plans to build a road that will divide the plot of land upon which the mosque sits.

The controversial plan for the road has sparked tensions within the Cham Muslim community, with many of the rank-and-file opposing the road and some of the Cham leadership supporting its construction.

The Al-Serkal Mosque, commonly called the Boeung Kak Mosque, is the country’s largest, and opponents of the road feel that it will destroy a tranquil oasis for the city’s Muslims.

Supporters contend that the road will ease traffic congestion and flooding because a new storm-water drainage system will be installed along with the road.

Ahmad Yahya, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation secretary of state, told RFA’s Khmer Service that he doesn’t oppose the road but thinks it should be moved.

He told RFA’s Khmer Service that the controversy over the road was being used to paint the Cham community as anti-government.

“They accused us of being an opposition group, but, as a matter of fact, we are not an opposition group,” he said. “We just insist that the Phnom Penh municipality and the authorities divert the new road’s trajectory so it will not affect our mosque.”

Ahmed Yahya said his position in government and the open show of support by the demonstrators for Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) should put the notion that they oppose the government to rest.

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Reported by Samnang Rann for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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