The chief monk at a pagoda in rural Siem Reap province was defrocked and arrested on Sunday for raping 10 underage monks in his care, police said Monday.
Vong Chet, 46, was apprehended after complaints made by 10 families were passed on to police from monastic officials in Kralanh district, said Duong Thavary, chief of the provincial force’s anti-human trafficking bureau.
“He confessed that he had been having sex with young monks for five or six months and said that he paid them 50,000 riel to 100,000 riel each time [about $12.50 to $25] in exchange for their silence,” Ms. Thavary said.
“The monks are young, from 11 to 17 years old,” she added. “After raping them, the chief monk threatened them with beatings or strict discipline if they told anyone. Some monks were raped five times, 15 times, and even 20 times.”
Ms. Thavary said the parents of an 11-year-old monk living at the Ratanak Moni pagoda complained to monastic officials on Saturday, saying their son had been raped, leading the families of other victims to come forward with similar allegations over the next two days.
“Our district police received 10 complaints from the parents of monks accusing the chief of rape,” she said.
The parents of the 11-year-old told police that their son called them on Thursday, asking them to visit because he was unwell, Ms. Thavary said. “He was in pain because the chief monk had raped him,” she said.
District police chief Chan Saren said Mr. Chet was arrested after being defrocked by the district monk chief, and had since been placed in the custody of provincial police for further questioning.
Mr. Saren said the chief monk told his officers that he raped the boys because “it is his passion.”
The father of a 17-year-old alleged victim said his son also contacted him on Thursday to say that Mr. Chet had raped him.
“My son had only been in the monkhood for one week,” the father said, adding that he was among those who lodged a complaint against Mr. Chet. “Please, judicial officials, penalize him in accordance with the law,” he said.
Ostensibly places of worship and learning, the country’s pagodas have been the scene of a variety of serious crimes, including drug use, prostitution and violence. In June, a teenage monk was sentenced to five years in prison for stabbing to death the deputy chief monk at Samakki Raingsey pagoda in Phnom Penh.
Venerable Khim Sorn, chief of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect in Phnom Penh, said that Vong Chet, who had been the chief monk at Ratanak Moni for two years, had sullied the pagoda’s name.
“His activities are far removed from Buddhism,” he said, adding that monk chiefs across the country would receive warnings from district monastic officials.
“We have instructed all monk officials to manage and respect the Buddhist rules.”