The government of Vietnam has forcibly defrocked nine ethnically Khmer monks it claims were engaged in illegal activity. This has spawned large angry protests in Cambodia outside the Vietnamese embassy, protests which have been met by police brandishing electric batons.
There’s no problem in theory with defrocking monks who do wrong. The problem is when the civil authorities defrock them rather than forcing the abbot to defrock them. The question is about transgressing the separation of authority – when a monk, your authority is the abbot of your temple, and you don’t answer to the king or the state. When the state skips the step of having the abbot defrock the monks, this is a violation of the separation of authority. When the state in question is Vietnam, which has not treated the Khmer in Vietnam well (leading some to even claim ‘genocide’), you can get some very angry responses.
It should be remembered that the forcible defrocking of Buddhist monks by the French in 1942 was the trigger for a massive outpouring of anti-French and pro-nationalist sentiment.
UPDATE: A Khmer Krom monk near Phnom Penh was found dead on Tuesday with his throat slit. Did he jump or was he pushed? If he slit his own throat, was it in relation to the defrocking of Khmer monks in Vietnam? If murdered, for what cause? The usual suspects all have opinions. And of course, the police are no use whatsoever, even assuming they are innocent of the death themselves.
And the protests keep growing, internationally. Defrocking monks without first going through the correct ritual procedures is a bad move, folks!
UPDATE: Now, the Cambodian Government is attempting to prevent Khmer monks from gathering to pray publicly for the dead monk. Strange world, this: Cambodian authority, like its communist VN counterpart, prevents Khmer Krom monks from praying for dead monk