After serving two years in prison on charges of drug possession and making death threats, a defrocked activist monk was welcomed back to Phnom Penh’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda on Thursday and wrapped once again in monks’ robes.
Dav Tep, 32, walked from Prey Sar prison to the warm welcome of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community members at about 8 a.m. He had been sentenced in April last year alongside a fellow monk after police said they found methamphetamines, forged documents from the Cults and Religion Ministry, and illegal weapons in a raid of their rooms at the Pur Senchey district pagoda.
A man living at the pagoda also accused the duo of threatening his life, but later said he was coerced into filing the complaint.
“Their case is fake,” Samakki Raingsey’s chief monk Thach Ha Sam Ang said.
Instead, he said they were targeted for protests over alleged Vietnamese encroachment on the Cambodian border.
He said the other monk had also returned to the pagoda after his September release.
But Phnom Penh chief monk Khim Sorn said welcoming convicted criminals into pagodas tarred their reputation.
“How can pagodas allow them to stay?
If they used to commit crimes, [people] will be afraid it will happen again in the future,” he said.