Prime Minister Hun Sen has waded into the case of a man claiming to be a reincarnation of Buddha, ordering Cults and Religion Minister Min Khin to keep a close eye on the situation.
Authorities say that Thean Vuthy, who dresses in white robes and sits in the place in a pagoda normally reserved for a statue of Buddha, has been cheating his followers out of money by purporting to be the fifth and final reincarnation of Buddha.
Mr. Vuthy was based in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district but apparently fled after the Ministry of Cults and Religion last week released a statement saying his claim seriously offends the values of Cambodia’s state religion.
Speaking at a university graduation ceremony on Koh Pich, the prime minister expressed surprise that Mr. Vuthy had been able to fool so many people—including monks.
“If even the king also prays to the monks, why [did] these monks pray to the man?” Mr. Hun Sen said. “It is difficult to understand this case—this is the 21st century, an age of technology.”
“Some stories people should believe, but they do not believe,” he continued. “This story, people should not believe, but they did believe.”
Mr. Hun Sen ordered Mr. Khin to monitor the case.
Ministry of Cults and Religion spokesman Seng Somony said the ministry did not have any information about Mr. Vuthy’s whereabouts.
“We have created three commissions to review the problems relating to Thean Vuthy,” he said.
“We are not sure yet if he has done anything wrong relating to the religious law and the state law, so we are investigating this case.”
Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said Mr. Vuthy had been summoned to the ministry in order to clarify his actions, but had not appeared.
Mr. Chamroeun said police were investigating, but declined to provide further details.
Toul Reachea pagoda was raided last week and religious items, including photographs and videos, were seized.
The Ministry of Cults and Religion said Mr. Vuthy first ordained priests as long ago as 1992 and had previously been warned about his activities.