British Tourist Says Monk Raped Her on Hike

Police arrested a 17-year-old monk Tuesday afternoon for alleg­ed­ly raping and robbing a 39-year-old British tourist in Battambang province, police said.

Phorn Sophoan, 17, allegedly at­tacked the woman at about 2 pm Tues­day while they hiked through caves in Sampov mountain in Bat­tam­bang province’s Banan district, district police chief Buth Sambeau said.

“The suspect had just become a monk for a few days, and he does not know the Buddhist rules,” Buth Sambeau said. “We charged him with criminal rape and robbery. According to criminal law, the suspect might be put in jail from five [years] to life in prison,” he said.

The victim was touring the Sam­pov mountain caves when Phorn Sophoan apparently approached her and offered to act as a guide, according to Buth Sambeau. When the pair reached a secluded cave, the monk—dressed in a saffron robe—allegedly raped the woman and took her money, camera and cell phone, Buth Sambeau said.

After the victim reported the incident to police, investigators arrested Phorn Sophoan on Tuesday af­ter­noon at a mountainside cottage where he lived with other monks and took him to Phnom Sampov pa­goda to be defrocked, Buth Sam­beau said.

“The victim was very scared and she was trembling when she first came to us,” Buth Sambeau said, noting that she was treated at the provincial hospital for cuts and abrasions.

The latest attack by members of the Buddhist clergy has upset local Buddhist leaders.

Police in Kompong Speu pro­vince arrested a 22-year-old monk and another 22-year-old who had just left the monkhood for allegedly raping two schoolgirls aged 16 and 18 in a classroom near their Kom­pong Speu province pagoda Friday.

“It destroys our reputation. I am very sorry about it,” said Khim Bun­­thoeum, chief monk of the Phnom Sampov pagoda, which has jurisdiction over the cottage where Phorn Sophoan was living.

According to Khim Bunthoeum, the 17-year-old is among many who come to the mountain area to live as short-term monks or nuns.

The suspect is from the nearby Chhoeuteal village in Chhoeuteal commune and had written permission from his commune and village chiefs to join the monkhood for two weeks, Khim Bunthoeum added.

Nicola James, vice consul of the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, said she couldn’t say whether em­bassy officials had been in contact with the victim because of privacy rules, but said the embassy would typically offer travel, communication and attorney contact information to the victim.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cam­bodian Association of Travel Agents, said Wednesday that the rape allegations would probably not impact tourism, but he urged police to protect tourists.

“It is important to tell tourists to avoid going to the quiet dark places. There is crime in any country,” he said.

  (Additional reporting by Katie Nelson)

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