Phnom Penh Court Questions Teenage Monk Over Murder

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday began questioning an 18-year-old monk accused of stabbing an older monk to death at the Samakki Raingsey pagoda on Monday, a court official said.

Chan Sopheak is accused of murdering the pagoda’s second deputy chief monk, Thach Khan, 37, with a knife during an argument at the pagoda in Meanchey district on Monday morning.

“We questioned him, but we have not yet charged him,” deputy prosecutor Chea Meth said.

“We will continue to question him tomorrow and then send him to the investigating judge,” he said, declining to comment further.

Deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin, however, contradicted Mr. Meth, saying the deputy prosecutor had already charged Mr. Sopheak, who has been defrocked.

“The suspect has been charged by the deputy prosecutor, who finished the questioning and charged him with intentional murder,” he said.

Choem Sitha, deputy chief of the Meanchey district police, who are holding Mr. Sopheak, also said that charges were laid against the teenager Tuesday. “The prosecutor finished questioning him and charged him,” he said.

On Monday, both the chief monk and deputy chief monk at Samakki Raingsey—home to a number of politically active, ethnic Khmer Krom monks, including Thach Khan—described Mr. Sopheak as gentle. They said they believed he was instructed to murder the older monk by a third party in order to give authorities an excuse to shut down the pagoda.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association on Tuesday released a statement about the case, also suggesting that Mr. Sopheak’s actions were part of a larger plot.

“[A]fter our group observed and studied the case, we found that there was a conspiracy and that there must be a mastermind behind the killing,” the statement says.

But Mr. Sitha said police concluded that Mr. Sopheak carried out the murder “because the two [monks] often had arguments with each other.”

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