Nearly 100 monks, nuns and laypeople protested at a pagoda in Siem Reap City on Wednesday against the arrest of two former monks last week over their depraved behavior, urging authorities to drop the charges so the pair can face justice under Buddhist doctrine.
On September 18, police raided the room of Pich David, 36, at the Pur Langka pagoda in Siem Reap City’s Slakram commune after receiving a tip that led them to find monks, pagoda boys and women drinking and using drugs amid evidence of sexual activity.
Mr. David and Chan Bunna, 19, a fellow former monk, were arrested and subsequently defrocked. The Siem Reap Provincial Court charged Mr. Bunna with drug use and Mr. David with using violence against police.
On Wednesday, provincial officials and Pur Lanka’s chief monk moderated a public meeting at the pagoda after nearly 100 people protested to demand that the disgraced monks be released, said Chao Leak Vanna, provincial monitor for rights group Licadho.
“Some monks requested the release of the two [former] monks who were defrocked because they only violated the monk doctrine,” he said.
Mr. Leak Vanna said that at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, deputy provincial governor Mao Vuthy and provincial police chief Sort Nady agreed not to intervene to grant the protesting monks’ request.
“They told the monks all they can do is find a lawyer for the [former] monks and try to get them bail” because it was in the court’s hands now, Mr. Leak Vanna said.
Deputy provincial police chief Oum Ammara, who also attended the meeting, said police would not attempt to sway the court’s ruling.
“We can just help to request that the court [release them on bail] but the decision depends on the judge,” Mr. Ammara said.
San Van, 34, a monk at Pur Langka pagoda, said Mr. David and Mr. Bunna should only be punished according to Buddhist doctrine because they had not violated any laws.
“If their guilt is only against the doctrine, they should not be put in jail like this,” he said.
During a speech to graduates of Chamroeun University of Poly-Technology on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed the chaos at the Pur Langka pagoda.
“If [monks] behave like this, be careful, because the people will start to believe in Islam or Christianity,” he said.