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Would-be Buddha on PM’s bad side

A woman sits next to paintings of the self-proclaimed fifth and final Buddha last week at the Reachea pagoda in Kandal province
A woman sits next to paintings of the self-proclaimed fifth and final Buddha last week at the Reachea pagoda in Kandal province. Hong Menea

Would-be Buddha on PM’s bad side

Thean Vuthy’s claim to spiritual superiority has reached the ear of Hun Sen, and judging by the premier’s response – he demanded yesterday that the Ministry of Cult and Religion arrest Vuthy using the “American” style – he doesn’t like the sound of it.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at Koh Pich Center yesterday, Hun Sen became fixated on the somewhat obscure – until now – story of Vuthy, a monk in Kandal province who believes he is the next Buddha and whose pagoda was temporarily shut down by the authorities on Sunday. Vuthy’s whereabouts were unknown.

“Excellency Min Khin is tracking this case seriously. It’s unspeakable,” Hun Sen told the crowd, referring to the minister of cult and religion.

Officials from the ministry made the decision to shut the pagoda for one week and relocate its monks after finding jewellery and other “irregular” items, including elephant tusks and “tiger fangs”, in Vuthy’s
room during the weekend raid.

Vuthy first came to the government’s attention a few months ago when the ministry seized books, CDs and photos that touted his greatness on sale at the pagoda.

“The monk kneeled to salute a normal person who claimed [to be] a god,” Hun Sen said. “It is impossible. Even the King kneels to salute the monks, so why did the monks kneel to salute the normal person like that? It is hard to understand.”

The prime minister suggested that Vuthy be arrested like fugitives in the United States, where, he said, they are pushed to the ground, handcuffed and stepped on.

In response to the speech, Ministry of Cult and Religion spokesman Seng Somony said that authorities are still looking for the suspect. The ministry has said that Vuthy’s actions “seriously offend the values of our state religion”, but it’s not clear on what charges he could be brought before a court.

Police are looking for him, Somony said. “But we do not know where he is right now.”

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