The Ministry of Cults and Religion has suspended disgraced Cambodian monk Nhem Kim Teng from his position as director of higher Buddhist education at the National Buddhist Center for his alleged involvement in a sex-tape scandal in Lowell, Massachusetts, according to a letter from the ministry.
Nothing has been heard from Nhem Kim Teng since he released a statement on April 22 in which he admitted to appearing in a video tape posted on YouTube, but denied that it showed him breaking his vow of celibacy at a pagoda in Lowell with Maya Men, a Cambodian-American laywoman with whom he was working on project to build a new, multimillion dollar temple in the U.S. city.
In April, Lowell city councilor Nuon Veasna said an official complaint had been sent to the Ministry of Cults and Religion in Cambodia asking for the monk to be defrocked. Mr. Veasna also revealed that the monk had been dismissed from his position at the temple and that his religious visa to remain resident in the U.S. had subsequently expired.
In a letter obtained Monday but dated November 25, Minister of Cults and Religion Min Khin wrote to Muong Ra, the secretary of the Monk’s Assembly of Cambodian Buddhism who is in charge of disciplinary action against monks, informing him of the Lowell community’s official complaint against Nhem Kim Teng.
The complaint asked the ministry “to take action to defrock disgraced Venerable Nhem Kim Teng for committing indecent acts inside the Trairatanaram Buddhist pagoda” in Lowell, according to the letter.
Four days later, Mr. Khin issued a proclamation from the ministry that said Nhem Kim Teng had been suspended from his role as director of higher Buddhist education at the National Buddhist Center.
“The salary and other bonuses for Venerable Nhem Kim Teng shall be temporarily frozen from November 2013,” the November 29 proclamation states, though it makes no mention of whether the monk has also been defrocked.
The Ministry of Cults and Religion could not be reached Monday, but when the news of the sex tape first broke in April, the ministry said the monastic committee would decide whether the monk would be defrocked as soon as it received the complaint.
Nhem Kim Teng also runs Santi Sena, a Buddhist environmental education and reforestation NGO that he founded in Svay Rieng province in 1994 and is based out of a pagoda in Svay Rieng City.
He could not be reached for comment.