Police arrested six young Buddhist monks and a 22-year-old man in connection with a series of assaults, robberies and extortions in Battambang town, police said Friday.
The six monks, aged 16 to 22, from Rakar Pagoda in Battambang Town, and a seventh young man, were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday, said the town’s chief of police Thouch Ra.
“They threatened fish vendors and vegetable sellers for money,” the police chief said. “We have received four or five complaints about them,” he said, adding that the gang was also allegedly responsible for a series of robberies including an incident on July 14 that left several men seriously injured.
The monk’s had also allegedly violated their monastic code by drinking alcohol at beer gardens in the town, he said.
“This gang of monks always took off their robes and left the pagoda for drinking,” he said.
The suspect monks Vy Lai, 19, Morn Savath, 22, Chek Chamnan, 16, Leang Pheaktra, 16, Sen Chhroeun, 18, and a 22-year-old neighbor, Oeun Vichet, were arrested Wednesday as they walked back to the pagoda from a beer garden in regular clothes, deputy district police chief Chan Ra said. A sixth monk, Yoeun Vandy, 17, was arrested Thursday after he was first defrocked at the pagoda, Mr Chan Ra said.
“They confessed to the crimes. They are the monks only in the daytime, but at the nighttime they caused a lot of trouble,” he said. “At first we thought that the troublemakers were ordinary people, but when we arrested and questioned them, they turned out to be monks. They should not have done this; they are monks.”
Ne Tal, Battambang province’s police chief for serious crimes, said the men would be sent to court for charging on Saturday.
Venerable Yoeun Rath Sarphea, Battambang town’s deputy abbot, said he did not think the arrests would harm the public’s respect for the Buddhist clergy.
“This is a personal case and a small group,” the abbot said.