The investigation into the chief monk at a Siem Reap province pagoda who confessed to raping 10 boys in his care will be expanded, police said Wednesday, after it emerged that he previously served the clergy at three other pagodas.
Police arrested Vong Chet, 46, on Sunday after receiving complaints that he had raped the young monks, all between the ages of 11 and 17, at Wat Ratanak Moni in rural Kralanh district, and will now look into his previous stints at pagodas in Kampot, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces.
“Our police will open investigations to find out whether there are more victims, because he moved around between a few pagodas before he became the chief at Ratanak Moni,” said Duong Thavary, chief of the Siem Reap provincial police’s anti-human trafficking bureau.
During questioning by police, Mr. Chet admitted to raping the boys studying under him and paying them to remain silent, Ms. Thavary said, but had said “he never committed rape before that, only when he moved to Ratanak Moni.”
She said Mr. Chet arrived in Siem Reap after spending two years at Tranap Russei pagoda in Kampot’s Chhuk district, where he became chief monk. Before that, he spent two years at Wat Keo in Battambang’s Ek Phnom district and about a year at Ta Keak pagoda in Siem Reap’s Puok district.
Prior to joining the clergy, he was married with two children, but divorced in 2003. Between 1979 and 1994, the bureau chief said, he was a soldier.
Ms. Thavary said she asked the disgraced former monk why he moved between four pagodas in the space of a few years, to which he answered that “he wanted to attain a high position” within the clergy.
According to investigators, Mr. Chet enjoyed almost unfettered access to young monks at Ratanak Moni, as he and his assistant were the only adults among the pagoda’s 15 residents. He was charged and jailed on Tuesday.
Contacted Wednesday, one of Mr. Chet’s alleged victims, aged 17, said he and the nine others went to the provincial referral hospital Wednesday for blood tests, which confirmed that they had not contracted any diseases.
He also said that some of the victims, who are all still staying at Ratanak Moni, were considering leaving.
“Some of us want to move to a new pagoda because there are still problems there. One monk is like a gangster, and he often beats us,” he said, declining to name the abuser.
Monastic officials have attempted to distance the clergy from Mr. Chet’s actions, which they described as an aberration.