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Arrested monks were set up, supporters say

More than 20 monks from Siem Reap protested in the capital yesterday morning in support of two fellow monks who have been defrocked and jailed after accusations that they were using drugs, drinking alcohol and having sex with women.

The former monks, Pich David, 35, and Chan Sambo, 20, have been charged by the Siem Reap Provincial Court with possession of drugs and using violence against the police during an alleged night of debauchery earlier this month. But the protesters claim the persecuted duo are victims of plot to remove them from the Po Lanka Pagoda in the province.

“David is the director of an NGO that helps a lot of children, he is very famous, and Keo Khoy [the chief monk] has been unhappy with him for a long time,” said monk Sok Sokhom.

Khoy, however, said the scandal has nothing to do with him.

In a press conference yesterday, monk Ngim Savsamkhan, a friend of the accused, also maintained that the allegations had been fabricated.

On September 18, police followed a tip to the pagoda where they allegedly found David and Sambo in Savsamkhan’s room at midnight along with two pagoda boys, two girls and some booze.

Police confiscated a bag containing condoms and drugs that they allege belonged to the former monks, Savsamkhan said.

But according to his own account, the two monks had come by his room to pick up bus tickets for Pchum Ben, unaware that he was out of town. He said that others were staying in his room.

The monks, he claimed, stumbled onto the party by coincidence and evidence against them was planted.

“Police came and cracked down immediately. This seemed planned. The two monks were beaten and tortured until there was blood all over,” he said.

The two monks continue to be temporarily detained at the provincial jail awaiting trial, according to Siem Reap Deputy Governor Mao Vuthy.

“If we base it on the evidence and the report of the police, it is possible that those monks did it. Some monks and citizens support for strong punishment, while others ask to release [them],” Vuthy said.

The protesting monks warned that mass demonstrations will soon follow if the pair is not released.

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