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Monk free on bail following alleged rape

PREY Veng prison officials have released on bail a chief monk accused of raping the wife of a business tycoon, after thousands of Svay Anthor district villagers gathered outside the prison to protest his detention.

Bun Sa Em, the chief monk at Prey Chraing pagoda, which is located in Svay Anthor, said on Thursday that provincial court officials had summoned him for questioning on May 5 in connection with the alleged assault, at which point he was charged with rape and arrested.

Both he and several of the villagers who protested said the complaint had been brought by a Phnom Penh-based tycoon who had grown jealous of the monk’s success at the pagoda.

“This chief of the monk is a really good monk, and he is good at constructing the pagoda and helping the villagers’ children. All of the villagers here don’t believe that he did what they said,” villager Lim Cham Nan said.

“The real reason that one family accused him of rape is because they are jealous of him,” he added.

Thorn Samoeun, the chief of Svay Anthor’s Peam Rong commune, said he also believed Bun Sam Em was not guilty, and that he had been in Prey Veng at the time of the alleged attack, which officials say occurred last November.

Bun Sa Em said he was still facing rape charges, and that police had ordered him to appear at the district police office once a week.

He emphasised that the charges against him were entirely baseless.

“They accused me without evidence. In the name of all monks, I have been ordained for five years, and I know all about the Buddhist teachings. How could I do what they said?” he said.

“If I am a bad monk my villagers would not ask the authorities to release me,” he added.

Koet Sovannareth, the provincial court prosecutor handling the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday, nor could the tycoon officials said had brought the complaint against Bun Sa Em.

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