Buddhist authorities in the capital yesterday allowed more than 50 monks to return to Wat Sras Chak and appointed a new abbot to maintain discipline there, officials said.
About 70 monks were ordered to leave on July 2 after a former monk was arrested for secretly filming women who visited the pagoda to bathe naked in holy water.
Chhoeng Bunchhea, who briefed the news media at the pagoda yesterday, took over as chief monk after the previous chief, Meas Kong, resigned following the scandal. In an interview, he vowed to improve discipline at the pagoda.
“We will create a system of internal regulation in Wat Sras Chak,” he said, adding that he was especially concerned with salvaging the reputation of the pagoda and the Buddhist religion.
“We are making arrangements for the monks who returned to improve order at the pagoda,” said Phorn Davy, director of the municipal department of cults and religions. The monks were permitted to return provided they enroll in high school or college, he said. Fifty-five monks and 108 students returned to the pagoda yesterday, he added.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged disgraced former monk Net Khai on June 29, following allegations he recorded videos of more than 100 women while they bathed.
“We will not allow bathing with blessed water in the [enclosed] room,” Chhoeng Bunchhea said, adding that the ceremony would now be held in the open and that women would no longer have to remove their clothes.
The homeless monks had been living at Wat Koh, Wat Sarawanth and Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh while Wat Sras Chak was closed.
Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath said police had reviewed the videos taken by disgraced former monk Net Khai and had identified some victims who were minors at the time of filming. “That could add 5 to 8 years in prison against him,” he said.