The arrest of a chief monk accused of regularly raping a 16-year-old pagoda boy prompted dismay and shock among Buddhist colleagues and religious officials, who blamed the incident on the spread of pornography and foreign influence.
Chea Eam, 74, of Trapeang Bei pagoda in Kampot province, was defrocked and taken into police custody last week. Police said he raped his pagoda boy twice a week over several months.
Nuon Ngeth, chief monk of Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum, said Monday that he was surprised by the case. “I have only heard about a man who has sex with a woman,” he said. “It is a very difficult story.”
Chhorn Eam, secretary of state at the Ministry of Cult and Religion Affairs, blamed the incident on the spread of pornographic videos.
Both men said they felt that the defrocked monk had been influenced by the acts of visiting foreign sex tourists.
Sex with children “belongs to a foreign culture,” Chhorn Eam said.
Nuon Ngeth worried that Cambodia’s Buddhist values were at risk, but said it was an isolated incident. “Buddhist rules do not allow [Chea Em] to do that…. He is to blame, not the Buddha.”
So Thearoth, monk and secretary to Supreme Patriarch Bou Kry, was pragmatic about the whole affair.
“[Chea Em] must be punished according to the law,” he said. “Not all monks are good.”