If you often drive along Willow St. and Webster Ave., you may have noticed something a little out of the ordinary – a camp set up on the sidewalk right next to a Cambodian Buddhist Temple.
For over a week, four monks from the Khemara Buddhikarama Temple on the westside of Long Beach have found themselves camping outside of their former home. The monks are staying on the site because the eviction comes during the time of Boun Kathina, a festival in which Buddhist monks are to remain in one place for three months.
“All four monks had left the temple on that day and upon their arrival, they found the door was locked in the temple and they couldn’t get in,” said Paul Nhep
Nhep, a resident of Long Beach and longtime visitor of the temple says that in nearly thirty years, this is the first time he’s ever seen the temple closed.
The eviction comes during the time of Boun Kathina, a festival in which Buddhist monks are to remain in one place for three months.
“Even though they are outside, they still in a sense belong to the temple,” said Nhep. The Kathina celebration took place outside of the temple on Sun, Oct. 20th.
“This temple belongs to the people,” said Socheatta He.
Socheatta He, another longtime devote says two of the monks received an eviction notice for not paying rent nearly two months ago but the neighbors claim the monks were wrongfully evicted.
“We ask[ed] the temple director, why they kick the monk out, they never give us the answer,” said another neighbor.
The elders say the monks shouldn’t have been evicted in the first place since compassion is part of the Buddhist practice.
“I stay here through the night and we take turns,” says Socheatta as she is surrounded by neighbors and fellow temple visitors.
In the spirit of compassion, many temple regulars and neighbors beyond the Buddhist faith have brought the monks food, water and even keep them company overnight but the fate of the monks will remain uncertain until the temple reopens on Monday, October 28th.
“The two monks that we’re not evicted are supposed to go back in the temple once ten days is lifted,” says Nhep.
The first time Khemara Buddhikarama opened its doors was in 1988 to house refugees who survived the Cambodian Genocide during the time of the Pol Pot Regime.
“The point for Buddhism, the temple is a permanent residence for the monks, nobody has the right to kick the monk out,” said another elder.
Long Beach Local News reached out to the Cambodian Association of America but has yet to receive a response. Stay with us for updates.
By: Claudia Bermudez
Photography by : Jimmy Delgado