Police in Svay Rieng province said on Thursday they had arrested four teenage monks and a 31-year-old man who allegedly sold them methamphetamine and smoked it with them in a pagoda.
The drug dealer, Rat Touch, befriended the four young monks, who range in age between 14 and 17, starting in late 2015 and ultimately “persuaded” them to begin purchasing meth from him and smoking it together in one of the dormitories at Odom Samakki Raingsey pagoda in Svay Teap district, according to Kan Sen, the chief of the provincial anti-drug trafficking police bureau.
The five were arrested in the dormitory on Wednesday as they were smoking the drugs and were sent to the provincial court on Thursday afternoon for questioning, according to Mr. Sen and deputy court prosecutor Phan Ratana.
“We found four small pieces of methamphetamine and materials for using drugs at the monk’s house,” Mr. Sen said.
“Mr. Touch confessed that he brought [drugs] from Phnom Penh to sell here,” he added.
He said Mr. Touch often commuted back and forth between Svay Rieng and Phnom Penh, and that although he rented a room for himself in Svay Rieng City, he was also a frequent overnight guest at the teen monks’ dormitory.
Mr. Sen named the four monks as Khem Dy, 17, Nou Savy, 17, Um Phearum, 15 and Pov Svay, 14.
Chan Sokeat, the chief of the provincial department of cults and religion, said the monks were formally defrocked before being handed over to police.
“They have violated the rules of Buddhism,” he said, “It will not affect the pagoda much because it was a mistake committed by individual people.”