Activist Monks Found Guilty of Drug Possession, Death Threat

Two defrocked monks were handed prison sentences at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, with one of them found guilty of drug possession and making a death threat and the other of using fake documents and improperly wearing monks’ robes.

The former monks—Dav Tep, 31, and Chea Vanda, 30—were defrocked in August last year before being arrested and charged with possession of drugs and fake documents, as well as making death threats.

Former monks Dav Tep, left, and Chea Vanda are escorted into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ahead of their sentencing on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Former monks Dav Tep, left, and Chea Vanda are escorted into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ahead of their sentencing on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

At the time, police said they found crystal methamphetamine in their rooms at Angtaminh pagoda in Pur Senchey district, along with women’s underwear, forged documents from the Ministry of Cults and Religion, a sword, a knife and an ax.

Police also accused the duo of threatening a young man living at the pagoda, although the man later said he had been coerced into filing a complaint against them.

The monks have staunchly proclaimed their innocence and insisted at the time of their arrest that they were framed in retaliation for their political activism on behalf of the opposition CNRP, including participating in protests along the Vietnamese border over alleged encroachment by Cambodia’s eastern neighbor.

However, at a sentencing hearing on Friday, Presiding Judge Im Vannak sentenced Mr. Vanda to three months in prison for using fake documents and the additional charge of wearing a monks’ robes without authorization. He was acquitted of the other charges.

Mr. Tep was acquitted of the fake documents and weapons possession charges, but was given two years in prison for possession of drugs and making a death threat.

As the men were escorted from the courtroom after hearing the verdict, Mr. Tep called the sentence an injustice.

“I cannot accept this decision because I did not commit the crime,” he said, adding that he would discuss the prospect of an appeal with his lawyer.

Mr. Vanda’s father, Taing Chea, said his son had done nothing wrong.

“My son was a good monk, not like what the court charged him with,” he said.

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