Thean Vuthy – the man accused of promoting himself as the next Buddha – yesterday apologised to officials during questioning, admitting his pagoda contained items that supported such an allegation, Provincial Governor Phay Bunchhoeun said.
“He confessed that he was wrong,” Bunchhoeun said, referring to items found in Vuthy’s Tuol Reachea pagoda in Kandal when officials searched it on Sunday.
But Vuthy, whom Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this week ordered officials to arrest over his alleged self-proclaimed divinity, denied declaring he was a Buddha. He wanted only to be reincarnated as a god through his good deeds, Bunchhoeun said.
Vuthy’s appearance yesterday attracted attention on social media, with people posting photos and video clips of the event on Facebook.
“I am not afraid, because everyone dies sooner or later. Please forgive me, as I did not understand what I was doing due to stupidity,” Vuthy says in one clip.
Authorities had discovered a painting of Vuthy depicted as a divine figure inside his pagoda, and he was known to sit in an area supposedly reserved for the Buddha himself.
Vuthy agreed to remodel his pagoda in accordance with traditional Buddhism, Bunchhoeun said.
However, accusations Vuthy was enriching himself on his devotees’ backs after jewellery was found in his pagoda were not on yesterday’s agenda.
“We did not question him about the jewellery in public like that. That will be left to the courts,” the governor said.
Vuthy is to meet the Minister of Cult and Religion Min Khin today. The ministry and a committee of monks will then discuss whether to take any punitive measures.
“Thean Vuthy indoctrinated his followers and made up things about religion. That is against the constitution, which states that Buddhism is the national religion and no one can offend it,” Bunchhoeun said.
According to Phum Phalla, adviser and a former secretary of state at the ministry, Vuthy did not heed an earlier warning about his activities because of his influential friends in the religious community.
“But this time, because the information spread through Facebook, he was stopped,” Phalla said.