Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged a defrocked Buddhist monk who is accused of secretly filming more than 100 women at his pagoda since 2008 as they bathed naked with blessed water, court officials said.
Former monk Net Khai was charged for producing pornography and disseminating pornography under anti-human trafficking statutes and was in provisional detention at Prey Sar Prison, deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said yesterday.
“The court charged [Net Khai] Tuesday,” Mr Chheng Huot said. “He secretly took videos of more than 100 naked women from 2008 to 2010, according to investigations of the videos.”
The suspect reportedly confessed to his crimes and said he had no accomplices, Mr Chheng Huot added. He faces one month to one year in prison if convicted.
Net Khai was arrested and defrocked on Saturday after allegedly filming a group of 10 women bathing in the bathroom at Sras Chak pagoda in Daun Penh district. The 37-year-old monk allegedly hid a mobile telephone camera to capture the bathers.
At least five of the women filed complaints after a video of one victim was distributed to other mobile telephones. The women allegedly paid for the privilege of bathing with the blessed water, and in Net Khai’s home police allegedly found $5,135, along with 143 cassettes and DVDs.
Net Khai’s lawyer, Chea Hey, said yesterday that he was disappointed with Net Khai, who hadbeen a monk for between 16 and 18 years. Mr Hey said his client has confessed to recording the bathing women but denied sending the films to others.
“He does not know how those videos were sent to other people,” Mr Hey said.
Meas Kong, chief monk at Sras Chak pagoda, said he had been unaware that Net Khai was charging for the ritual ablutions at his pagoda or that he had been filming them.
“Net Khai came into the pagoda nine years ago,” he said. “He never got into disputes with other monks or people and his wrongdoing was in secret.”
Meas Kong said the ritual of bathing with blessed water is a longstanding tradition, the result of an ancient admixture between Buddhist and Hindu beliefs.
“Some people believe it brings success and they always came to let [Net Khai] give water to them,” he said.
Meas Kong said Net Khai’s secret filming sessions could have damaging effects on Cambodian culture.
“Net Khai did wrong against the religion and Cambodian law that can have serious effects on the morals of the people,” he said.
Mohanikaya Supreme Patriarch Non Nget said Monday that Net Khai was an exception among monks.
“It is not connected to our monks’ discipline at all, and now Net Khai is defrocked, so the law can sentence him,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)