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Eight boys ‘rescued’ from Kratie pagoda

Police in Ratanakkiri province on Saturday returned eight kidnapped boys to their families and arrested the man suspected of taking them away.

According to police, the children were playing outside when Thai Phum, 63, allegedly asked them to come with him, leading them into a truck and riding with them to Kratie province. Their worried parents later turned to police after finding their children missing.

Police found the boys in a pagoda in Kratie, where the alleged kidnapper said he planned to make them become monks, said police chief Ren Mut of Ratanakkiri’s Kon Mom district, adding that Phum’s story was dubious and that he might have taken the children to exploit them for labour.

“During questioning, the old man told police he wished to bring these children to be monks in Kratie but their parents didn’t know,” said Mut. “The pagoda didn’t know their plan to be monks . . . The children did not know.”

Phum is now awaiting prosecution, he added. Police also arrested Cheang Sokleng, the truck driver who took Phum and the children to Kratie, but released him after concluding that he was not involved.

Chhay Thy, a Rattanakiri-based coordinator with rights group Adhoc, said it was “hard to believe” that Phum planned to make the boys into monks.

Chan Sannch, the father of one of the missing boys, was relieved at their recovery.

“I missed my son. I was so worried. I did not know where he had gone, that’s why I called the police to find them,” he said. “I didn’t know my son wanted to be a monk.”

The boys are unharmed and safely back home, police said.

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