Buddhist monk ‘confesses’ to rape of British tourist

By Thomas Bell (“Telegraph,” November 19, 2008)

Battambang, Cambodia – According to police the 39-year-old victim was trembling with fear when she reached the police station to report the attack on Tuesday afternoon. The monk, 17-year-old Thorn Sophoan, was immediately arrested and defrocked. Police said that he has confessed to the crime.

“While the monk was guiding the British woman to see caves on the top of Phnom Sam Pov mountain, he raped her,” the local police chief Mey Chhengly said.

The victim reportedly told the monk that she did not want a guide but he insisted on following her anyway. The attack took place in Battambang province in the north west of Cambodia.

The victim’s right leg was injured as she attempted to fight off her attacker, who also stole her money, camera and mobile telephone.

Buddhist monks in Cambodia are frequently accused of sexual assaults.

This week two other monks were arrested for allegedly raping two teenagers in a school classroom.

In January a monk was arrested for allegedly molesting an 8-year-old French girl at the famous Angkor ruins and in August a monk was arrested and defrocked after being accused of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old child.

There is also a problem with fake monks, who police say deceive the public into giving alms or disguise themselves as holy men before committing crimes such as armed robbery.

“Buddhism educates monks to have physical, verbal and mental purity,” said Nun Nget, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect in Cambodia. “[Such crimes] heavily affect our religion, which is why it is necessary to defrock bad monks.”

Thorn Sophoan had been a monk for only a few days month before he was arrested. Many young Cambodians become monks for short periods of time without necessarily devoting their lives to the clergy. They could be briefly ordained to show gratitude to their parents, honour a dead relative, or study Buddhism.

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