The Cambodian Buddhist temple at Bonnyrigg, Wat Khemmarangsaram, was allegedly broken into on Thursday night, March 22.
Apparently, a window was smashed, an entry door was forced open and an unknown amount of cash was stolen from a donation box.
The break-in follows the visit to Sydney a week earlier by Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, who was in Australia for a conference of ASEAN leaders.
Members of the Cambodian Australian community burnt several effigies of the Cambodian leader in defiance of a public warning by Hun Sen that he would track down and beat anyone in Australia who engaged in such activities during his visit.
Fearing there would be protests when he came to Sydney he’d warned anyone planning to protest: “I would like to send a message – do not burn my photo. If you burn my photo I will follow you home. I will follow you and beat you at home.”
We knew we were taking a risk but we had to stand up to Hun Sen, show him Australia is a democracy and he can’t come here and bully people. We fear his agents might reach into our community and seek to intimidate people here.Anonymous spokesperson
The Cambodian community in South-West Sydney suspect the temple break-in last Thursday was connected to the burning of one of those effigies in the temple grounds.
Just before that protest, an unknown man was allegedly seen taking photos of the temple and demonstrators. He ran off when approached, a person at the protest said.
At recent demonstrations in Sydney’s CBD held to protest against political oppression in South-East Asia, Cambodian Australians also observed strangers taking photos of individuals in the crowd and have notified the Australian Federal Police.
“Whenever we hold a protest they turn up and take photos of us,” said a community spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal.
“We knew we were taking a risk but we felt we had to stand up to Hun Sen. We had to show him Australia is a democracy and he can’t come here and bully people.”
The spokesperson said in the days before the ASEAN summit a group of about 40 people from Cambodia and aligned with Hun Sen came to the temple, took group photos and then left. Their visit made the community uneasy; coming so soon after Hun Sen had threatened Australian Cambodians.
“We fear his agents might reach into our community and seek to intimidate people here,” the spokesperson said.
Fairfield police are investigating the break-in, which was reported via Police Link and is believed to have occurred between Thursday 7pm and Friday 7am.