Monks Arrested for Beating Moto-Taxi Driver

Six monks from Phnom Penh’s Wat Stung Meanchey were arrested on Sunday evening for attacking a motorcycle taxi driver, but were released later that night after the pagoda negotiated a settlement, officials said on Monday.

The incident occurred after a local market vendor named Bou Sopheap, 25, entered the strife-plagued pagoda in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey commune at about 7 p.m. on Sunday and asked to borrow a mobile phone from Pin Chek, 32, a resident monk, according to commune police chief Mao Sovoeun.

While she was using the phone, her husband, 25-year-old moto-taxi driver Khuot Thai, drove up and confronted the monk over his suspicions that the two were having an affair, Mr. Sovoeun said.

“The argument occurred before the man punched the monk in the face because he suspected that the monk was having a love affair with his wife,” he said.

“The monk [Pin Chek] responded by beating the man several times on the torso and the left temple with a steel pipe, and five other monks came to help the monk by stabbing [Mr.Thai] once in the man’s back with a sharp tool,” he added.

Commune police arrested all six monks involved—Pin Chek, along with Chhel Thouk, 31; Tep Nau, 21; Mon Heang, 33; Pong Saroeun, 28; and Tep Makara, 28—at Wat Stung Meanchey at about 7:30 p.m., but released them about two hours later after senior monks at the pagoda agreed to compensate Mr. Thai for his injuries, Mr. Sovoeun said.

Yim Ekvutha, a deputy monk chief at the pagoda, said Mr. Thai originally demanded $1,000 to cover medical bills, but finally accepted 1 million riel (about $250) from the pagoda’s coffer and $40 from commune police.

“The chief of the pagoda paid 1 million riel to the man to put an end to the problem because we didn’t want the problem to go on longer,” he said, adding that Mr. Thai had also requested that the monks who attacked him be defrocked, but ultimately folded on this point in the face of opposition from the pagoda.

Khim Sorn, chief of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect in Phnom Penh, acknowledged that the six monks had used violence—a breach of Buddhist doctrine—but said they should not be defrocked because their offense was not serious.

“We will not defrock the monks because they committed a minor crime [only], but they should be punished according to Buddhist rules,” he said, explaining that the monks should be “educated” before more serious action is considered.

Sunday’s attack was just the latest in a long series of feuds and scandals at the pagoda. Earlier this month, a meeting over allegations that a monk at the pagoda threw statues of the Buddha into a dirty pond descended into chaos when his supporters attempted to storm the main temple for fear that he would be defrocked.

Yim Ekvutha said the controversies were hurting the pagoda’s reputation.

“We are now finding that it is difficult for the monks to go out to collect food from people outside the pagoda. We never let the people know we come from the Stung Meanchey pagoda because we are afraid they might hate us because the pagoda has had many scandals,” he said.

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