Crackdown Requested in Pagodas To Curb Crime

To curb crime and damage to the image of the na­tional religion, the Ministry of Cults and Religion has asked Buddhist leaders to be stricter in controlling the monks and students living in their pagodas, officials said.

The crackdown on “bad monks” was motivated by recent arrests of several former monks in rape and sexual assault cases, said Dok Narin, secretary of state at the ministry.

Other incidents are the rape of a foreign tourist, allegedly at the hands of teenage monk in Battam­bang province, and the killing of two traveling salesmen in a Kom­pong Cham province pagoda last week, allegedly by two monks and two men who just recently left the monkhood.

Dok Narin said that one strong and common measure to deter crim­inal acts by ordained clergy will be to defrock monks involved in crimes and make sure they are prosecuted.

“Defrocking bad monks is not enough sometimes,” he said. “If those monks committed a serious crime, they must be defrocked, then sent to police for further punishment,” he said.

Numerous monks have been defrocked for both minor and serious crimes to set an example for others to strictly follow Buddhist discipline, he added.

One of the main reasons for such incidents are the number of misbehaving young men who enter the monkhood for a short period of time, and do not understand or re­spect religious discipline, Dok Narin added.

“Some monks are former gangsters or have disobeyed their parents. Their parents could not control them or get them to obey. [So] they then brought those former bad people to become monks in order to let the senior monks in the pagoda give them advice and teach Budd­hist rules,” he said.

Monk chiefs and senior monks have an obligation to monitor their monks’ relationships with the public, and in particular regulate their mobile phone use, to make sure they’re not incited to commit crimes, he added.

Phan Davy, chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Cults and Reli­gion Department, said his department is working with all 86 pagodas in the capital to investigate monks and students who illegally rent or sell ac­commodation inside pagoda buildings for their personal gain.

He said that 3,814 students live free of charge in Phnom Penh pagodas, but that they must show appropriate paperwork to do so.

“But at the same time, there are some bad people using pagoda shelters for commercial business purposes,” Phan Davy said. “Some students who received the right to live in the pagodas have sold the monk shelters to other students secretly,” he added.

Sao Chanthol, chief of Phnom Penh’s Langka pagoda, said he has not had any monks under his guard commit a crime since 2002.

Sao Chanthol said that he meets with his novices regularly and sets strict rules. Before that, some of his monks had been involved in drugs and defrocked for prosecution, he said.

“To crack down on bad monks and students staying in my pagoda, I have clear management controls,” Sao Chanthol said.

“I have assigned so many holy men and monks to be foremen in controlling other monks in each monk residence.”

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