Villagers Rally for Accused Adulterous Monk

Nearly 300 villagers rallied in a Kandal province pagoda compound on Tuesday to protest a de­cision to replace their chief monk—a controversial figure beloved by villagers for his prolific gifts to the pagoda but condemned by Bud­dhist leaders for his alleged adulterous affairs.

Earlier that day, Supreme Bud­dhist Patriarch and chief monk of the Thammayut sect Bou Kry ended the 10-year tenure of in­cumbent chief monk Phong So­phay by appointing Muong Mao, 24, as head of Veal Sbov pagoda in Kien Svay district’s Veal Sbov commune, said district police Chief Meang Pich.

Phong Sophay, 36, drew police attention and the clergy’s ire in July, after a pagoda layman filed a complaint, alleging that he had caught the monk having sex with the layman’s wife at a latrine near the pagoda compound. Phong Sophay denied the allegations.

On Tuesday, the pagoda’s faithful bucked Phong Sophay’s dismissal, pointing to his numerous development projects as proof of his devotion. They dismissed the  adultery allegations as unfounded.

“The investigating police did not find any evidence to accuse the old monk chief of falling in love with women in the past,” com­mune Chief Uy Sath said. “That monk has developed a lot of things in the pagoda site, and built many houses in it for monks to stay.”

Officials from the district office of the cult and religion department will attempt to finalize Muong Mao’s appointment today, District Governor Samuth Thoeun said. He, too, was skeptical of Bou Kry’s appointment, saying, “he is too young to lead Veal Sbov pagoda.”

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