Phnom Penh city officials swarmed a Vietnamese temple on Thursday and dismantled a statue of the faith’s founder that the government had ordered to be removed a year ago, claiming it was a source of religious conflict.
As members of the Cao Dai congregation stood by, about 20 police officers and other city workers removed the statue of Ho Phap Pham Cong Tac, who played a key role in establishing the monotheistic religion in Vietnam in 1926, and died in Cambodia in 1959 after founding the temple in Chamkar Mon district’s Tumnop Toek commune.
The statue was to be temporarily relocated to Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun commune until the congregation could retrieve it and send it to the U.S., said Phorn Davy, director of the municipal cults and religion department.
The removal capped a yearlong fight over the statue, which had divided the congregation, with some complaining the statue encouraged idol worship.
Chea Lay, who had sought to keep the statue, said supporters would work to get it back after the situation calmed down.
“For now, we can’t mount a challenge because it has strong wind,” he said.
“We’ll let them beat us in the short term.”
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