Police in Kompong Speu province have arrested a young monk over the attempted rape of a 9-year-old girl, while religious authorities Tuesday said they had no plan to address what has become an increasingly regular crime within the monkhood.
Nuon Chanthorn, 20, was arrested on Sunday in Samraong Tong district’s Thoammda Or commune after being defrocked by local Buddhist authorities, commune police chief Ouk Phun said Tuesday.
Mr. Phun said the monk from Takeo province was visiting a friend and saw the girl playing with two other children outside the house next door.
Mr. Chanthorn waited until the other two children had gone to chase away cattle, then forced the girl into the house where he attempted to rape her but relented after she put up a noisy fight, he said.
“After he was not successful, the monk released the girl and gave her 2,000 riel [about $0.50] to go buy him cigarettes. Instead, the girl ran to her house and told her grandmother,” Mr. Phun said.
The police chief said the grandmother went straight to the village chief, who proceeded to inform police, who arrested him the same day.
“The suspect admitted to what the victim said and we sent him to district police headquarters Sunday night,” he said.
Deputy provincial police chief Soum Bora said the questioning of Mr. Chanthorn would continue at the provincial court today.
Provincial chief monk Dou Vandoeun said the monk had been defrocked and conceded that such incidents reflected badly on the entire religion.
“It has a bad effect, but some followers understand; they can separate monks who do good from some bad individuals,” he said.
Chhoeng Bunchhea, a member of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect’s Supreme Sangha Judicial Council, agreed.
He said pedophiles comprised a small minority among the monkhood but he was still worried about their ability to tarnish the entire institution.
“This will affect the honor of the monks and the religion even though it is an individual, but it affects the honor of other good monks who follow the Buddhist doctrine,” he said. “I worry because it will have an even bigger effect if it keeps happening.”
Chhoeng Bunchhea said Cambodia’s annual monks congress was meant to tackle such problems and set a course to address them over the coming year, but he offered no new prescriptions for dealing with rapists.
During the last monks’ congress in December, sexual assault committed by monks was not addressed despite recent high-profile cases, including a pagoda chief who was charged in Siem Reap province for the systematic rape of 10 novice monks in his care. Instead, the congress focused on rebuking the leader of a minor political party who has highlighted the monkhood’s problems.