Ahead of the Pchum Ben festival, the acting chief monk of a Kompong Speu province pagoda and seven of the pagoda’s clergymen were forced from their positions Monday over allegations of their involvement in separate sacrilegious scandals, religious officials said.
At the behest of some 100 villagers, provincial monk chief Siv Sorn said he stripped Nuon Saroeun, the acting chief monk of Ampil Vorn pagoda in Thpong district’s Veal Pun commune, and the seven clergymen of their positions.
The villagers have called for Nuon Saroeun, 28, to be defrocked as soon as possible, accusing him of carrying out a secret love affair with two local women, Siv Sorn said Wednesday.
“They cannot pay homage to him at the time of Pchum Ben in order to make their minds peaceful,” he said.
The 15-day Pchum Ben festival, which began Wednesday, is a time when Cambodians traditionally visit pagodas to give offerings to their ancestors.
Siv Sorn added that the seven clergymen were removed after religious officials discovered that four of them were involved in the misprocurement of 56 million riels, or about $14,000, intended for construction and upkeep at the pagoda. “It is the biggest [scandal] that has occurred in a pagoda in Kompong Speu province,” said Tim Yn of the Kompong Speu provincial Buddhist religion department.
Tim Yn said, however, the allegations against Nuon Saroeun were unfounded and that she suspected the clergymen fabricated the story to have him removed.
“In fact, our committee of investigators cannot find any evidence and have no reason to accuse him and defrock him,” she said.
Siv Sorn said Nuon Saroeun has been demoted to a simple monk while authorities continue their investigation.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Cambodians to adhere to their religious responsibilities during an inauguration ceremony on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Wednesday.