Source: Khmer Times / Wednesday, 04 May 2016 by Taing Vida
The construction of a new road in the Boeung Kak lake area slated to pass through land around the Alserkal Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the Kingdom, has led to a defamation lawsuit between two prominent Muslim leaders.
The pilot project, initiated in 2012, plans to pave a road from Toul Kork to Monivong Boulevard, with City Hall stating that the plan has been approved by landholders Osman Hassan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, and Van Matt, president of the Cambodian Association of Muslims.
City Hall Director of Administration Meas Chan Yada said the road would help ease traffic congestion and be “beneficial to the public.” He added that construction will begin shortly. Last week, Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong said City Hall will review the plan and push for it to be agreed upon by the Muslim community.
But Ahmad Yahya, a member of the Cambodia Muslim Development Fund who works at the Ministry of Social Affairs and is an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said last week that he opposed the development, as the current plans would swap the land belonging to the mosque at its entrance with the land behind it. He added that Mr. Hassan would personally benefit from the proposal because he plans to build a condominium in the area.
“Osman Hassan said he wanted to build condominiums there. There is definitely a solution if we talk but he did not. He insists on doing that. I would only tell the truth,” Mr. Yahya said.
In response to the comments, Mr. Hassan filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last Thursday, with the court’s prosecutor yesterday summoning Mr. Yahya for a May 10 court appearance.
“He mistreats the information. He never remembers what he said afterward. He accused me without evidence. I do not want to say this, but he used to sleep at my house, used my car and ate at my house. He did not even remember that,” Mr. Hassan said.
Mr. Yahya said he will obey the summons “without fear to provide the truth.”
An open letter from a Khmer-Muslim student group said local Muslims did not support the plan, as the mosque was designed to be a place of worship and solitude. The noise and pollution from the road, the letter said, would disrupt their services at the mosque and ruin the peacefulness of the area.
The letter urged Muslims leaders to discuss the issue openly because the mosque and surrounding land, under Islamic law, are considered joint property and do not belong to any one person.
Mr. Hassan disputed their claim and said the project has received more support than objections, adding that the road itself would be 40 meters away from the mosque’s front wall, and would not disturb the place of worship.
According to Mr. Hassan, the road will be 93 meters long, and take up a total of 1,857 square meters, with the affected land to be paid for by City Hall.