In statement yesterday, the Ministry of Information appealed to Cambodians not to exchange videos of nude women allegedly recorded in secret by a monk in Phnom Penh who has since been defrocked.
“The Information Ministry would like to appeal to our people; please, help take measures and stop sending pictures to each other and delete those pictures of female victims,” the statement said.
“Don’t degrade our national traditions or cause the degradation of our nation by other nations when those images fall into their hands.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 29 charged defrocked Buddhist monk Net Khai with producing and disseminating pornography after he allegedly filmed more than 100 women at his pagoda as they bathed naked with blessed water. He faces a month to a year in prison if convicted.
The secret recordings which began in 2008 ended after at least five of the victims discovered that nude videos of themselves had been distributed on mobile telephones and notified police.
On Friday, the court charged a 24-year-old man with distributing the images at his business selling digital downloads for mobile telephones and iPods in Tuol Kok district’s Phsar Depot III commune. A conviction carries a sentence of between seven days and a month in jail and a fine of up to $50 under anti-human trafficking laws.
Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said the public should notify police if they know of someone downloading or distributing the videos.
“I have ordered all the police to crack down on electronic transfer stores and anyone who distributes the pornography to the public,” he said, adding he did not know how far the videos had been distributed.
Deputy Phnom Penh police chief Sok Khemarin said that Net Khai had told police that he acted alone and that the videos got into circulation when he lost several flash drives containing the images.
“I appeal to the people who have the pornography, please delete it,” he said.
Net Khai’s alleged actions at Wat Sras Chak have led to the resignation of the pagoda’s chief monk. Seventy Buddhist monks were temporarily ordered to leave the pagoda on July 2 in order to redeem its tarnished image.
The pagoda is currently being cleansed in preparation for a ceremony scheduled for July 21.
Non Nget, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya order, welcomed the message from the Ministry of Information and raised concerns that the videos could ultimately harm the image of Buddhism.
“It is just an individual case and we should not associate it with our religion, so please don’t look down on our religion,” he said.