The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday charged an 18-year-old former monk with intentional violence following his arrest Monday for stabbing an older monk to death at Phnom Penh’s Wat Samakki Raingsey, a court official said.
According to police and witnesses, Chan Sopheak killed Thach Khan, 37, Samakki Raingsey’s second deputy chief monk, with a kitchen knife following an argument at the pagoda in Meanchey district on Monday morning. Thach Khan died of his injuries later that day, police said.
“We charged with him with [intentional] violence with aggravating circumstances and sent him to the investigating judge for more questioning,” deputy prosecutor Chea Meth said Wednesday, declining to comment further. The charge carries a sentence of between seven and 15 years’ imprisonment.
Deputy district police chief Choem Sitha said Mr. Sopheak, who was defrocked after Monday’s incident, avoided more serious charges—such as murder or manslaughter—because of the answers he gave police during questioning.
“When we took him to our police station, he said he did not know that he had murdered the monk,” Mr. Sitha said. “[He said] they just hit each other.”
Mr. Sitha said that Mr. Sopheak was placed in provisional detention at Prey Sar prison after being questioned by the investigating judge Wednesday.
Thach Ha Sam Ang, first deputy chief monk at Samakki Raingsey, said he was disappointed with the charge.
“It was premeditated murder, as he kept the knife in his robes to kill the monk,” he said.