Police in Kompong Speu province on Sunday arrested a man suspected of shooting and killing a 76-year-old monk as he presided over a Buddhist ceremony on Saturday night, officials said.
Moeung Um, the first deputy chief monk at the Ang Sniet pagoda in Samraong Tong district, was invited to speak at a ceremony in Taing Krouch commune to mark the anniversary of the death of two brothers killed in a traffic accident, said district police chief Khut Sophal.
Mr. Sophal said Moeung Um was murdered at about 8:30 p.m., shortly after he began speaking and while he was seated alone on a stage in front of some 100 attendees.
“After about five minutes, there was gunfire…behind the elderly monk,” he said. “Moeung Um died on a chair sitting in front of the villagers.”
The police chief said the monk was killed by a single round, which was fired from behind a curtain to his rear and entered the left side of his neck, exiting just above the right ear.
Moeung Um died immediately and no one else was injured, he added.
Deputy provincial police chief Saom Bora said his officers Sunday arrested a 28-year-old man in neighboring Phnom Sruoch district they suspected of killing the monk.
“Although the suspect has not yet confessed, our police are finding out more about him,” he said, refusing to give the man’s name.
Mr. Bora said the man was being treated as a suspect because he had an argument with Moeung Um a few days earlier in which he locked the monk in a room, declining to give further details.
Brigadier General Men Siborn, commander of the military police in Kompong Speu province, said his officers were also investigating the murder.
“This case is a revenge case, but we couldn’t find out why the killer shot and killed the elder monk,” he said without elaborating.
Deputy military police commander Tep Phanna, however, said investigators suspect a homemade gun—many of which fire ball bearings—was used because no shell casing was found at the scene.
The murder of Moeung Um is just the latest in a series of violent incidents involving monks over the past month.
In late December, Moul Sokny, 31, the chief monk at the Khemara Seima pagoda in Preah Vihear province, was arrested and charged with the premeditated murder of Mith Tuoch, 64, whose body was found buried behind the monk’s home.
On January 12, police arrested Chan Sopheak, an 18-year-old monk at Phnom Penh’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda for using a kitchen knife to stab an older monk to death.