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Hun Sen ‘gave medal to would-be Buddha’

A day after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the minister of religion to keep a close eye on Thean Vuthy, video clips were uploaded on social media apparently showing Vuthy, who allegedly declared himself to be the next Buddha, receiving a medal from the premier.

The clips show a man in a white robe, purported to be Vuthy, standing with officers waiting for Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, to get off a helicopter at a ceremony in 2010. At the end of the event, the premier gives a medal to Vuthy.

Phay Bunchhoeun, Kandal provincial governor and chief of the committee investigating Vuthy’s case, said yesterday he had not heard about the medal.

However, he said, Hun Sen presided over a ceremony at Vuthy’s Tuol Reachea pagoda many years ago.

“At the time, Thean Vuthy was a hermit and this pagoda did not have any problems. If there had been any problems, Samdech Hun Sen would not have gone to this pagoda,” Bunchhoeun said.

Vuthy was summonsed in a letter from the Ministry of Cult and Religion to appear for questioning at Kandal Provincial Hall today.

According to Bunnchhoeun, Vuthy will be questioned about his management of Tuol Reachea and the jewellery allegedly found in his living quarters after authorities raided and shut down the pagoda on Sunday.

Tuol Reachea pagoda caretaker Song Sor, 40, who received the letter on Vuthy’s behalf, claimed Vuthy would appear at the questioning.

“He already knows about the letter, but I do not know where he is right now.”

Sor said that Vuthy never claimed to be a Buddha, but that some people edited his photo to make him look like one and distributed it despite his warnings.

“The vendors in the pagoda faked his photos, smearing his name and getting him into trouble. But I believe he also made some mistakes,” Sor explained “No one is perfect.”

Seng Somony, spokesman for the Ministry of Cult and Religion, did not respond to a request for comment.

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