White-Robed Spiritual Leader Apologizes to Buddhist Monks

A man who reportedly claimed to be the fifth reincarnation of Buddha on Wednesday appeared before senior monks and Kandal provincial officials to apologize for offending the Cambodian people.

Thean Vuthy, who dresses in white robes and sits on a throne to receive visitors at his Tuol Preah Reachea pagoda in Koh Thom district, was last week publicly chastised by the officials for “seriously offending the values of Buddhism.”

Kandal Governor Phay Bun Chhoeun said Mr. Vuthy answered a summons to appear at the provincial offices Wednesday.

“He apologized for everything he did wrong that made Cambodian people unhappy with him,” he said.

Mr. Bun Chhoeun added that the spiritual leader was due to visit the Ministry of Cults and Religion on Thursday to meet the minister, Min Khin, to further explain his actions. Mr. Vuthy is being investigated over claims he cheated his followers out of money.

“I don’t know if he will be punished or not; the ministry will decide about that,” Mr. Bun Chhoeun said.

In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Mr. Vuthy pledged to modify his pagoda’s ostentatious design and unusual decor—which includes two giant Buddha statues that rise above the surrounding rice fields—if ordered to by the Ministry of Cults and Religion.

“Please forgive me for what I did [although] I don’t understand clearly what I did wrong, I am ignorant,” he said.

Mr. Vuthy said the only reason he had not answered previous calls to explain his actions was because he did not receive the notifications.

“Please, all supreme patriarchs and chief monks, forgive me and don’t think I was trying to escape,” he said.

Meng Leang, an assistant to Mr. Vuthy, said he planned to appear at the Ministry of Cults and Religion on Thursday.

“He wants the ministry to educate him about what he did wrong at the pagoda [and] he wants to explain to people about what he did,” he said.

“I think if he does not apologize this time, the ministry could accuse him of doing a lot of things.”

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