Provincial Monk Chief Dances Into Disrepute

The chief monk of Kompong Speu province is being investigated by religious authorities over a video that shows him singing and dancing on stage at a Khmer New Year concert on Sunday night, with claims he violated his vows to live a life of asceticism as a monk.

Bou Buntha, head of the Samraong Tong district cults and religion department, said that provincial monk chief Dou Vandoeun was filmed performing on a stage at his Trapaing Kong commune pagoda to celebrate the last night of the Khmer New Year break.

Mr. Buntha said a meeting was held on Wednesday to discuss the case, with authorities deciding to investigate Dou Vandoeun’s alleged transgression today.

“Wait until we hold [another] meeting to discuss this case and whether or how we will take measures against him,” he said. “We will go to study this case at his pagoda tomorrow to see if the case is true or not.”

“According to monk rules, this mistake is small, but his activity could affect the reputation of all monks in the country,” he added. “This problem will lead to criticism from one person to another.”

Commune chief May Chanthan said he believed Dou Vandoeun should resign immediately.

“My idea is that he should leave the monkhood because if he still stays in the monkhood, the people will criticize him forever,” Mr. Chanthan said, adding that he had himself been a monk 25 years ago.

Bung Bunna, 50, who owns the Bunna Phoum Pur Concert business, which organized the event at Dou Vandoeun’s pagoda, said he observed the monk sing six songs and perform the traditional Ramvong dance.

“I thought it was not suitable, but I did not dare to tell him,” Mr. Bunna said. “His activity was completely wrong…. Every morning now, when I go to drink at the coffee shop, people are always criticizing the singing monk.”

“Since ancient times, I have not heard of a monk singing like this,” he said.

Dou Vandoeun could not be reached.

The Buddhist order has over the past decade suffered from an epidemic of serious crimes committed by monks, including rape, child rape, murder, drug dealing and drug use. Yet religious authorities have repeatedly denied that there is a systemic problem, instead blaming individual monks.

Khim Sorn, chief of the secretariat for the country’s Mohanikaya Buddhist sect, said that while there was nothing wrong with dancing in general, it was not an appropriate activity for monks.

“His action was not a big mistake but…it will affect the reputation of monks,” he said.

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