After a three-hour meeting at Kandal Provincial Hall yesterday, Thean Vuthy, a man accused of promoting himself as the next Buddha, thumbprinted a document from the Ministry of Cult and Religion and confessed to violating the constitution by offending Buddhist values.
Accompanied by 100 of his supporters, Vuthy explained his case to Minister Min Khin, a committee of monks and the governor of Kandal, taking responsibility for his errors.
The nine accusations in the document include sitting on a throne reserved for the Buddha, having monks bow to him, owning a painting of himself depicted as a godly figure and using followers’ donations to buy jewellery, which he later sold.
Vuthy said he used the proceeds from the jewellery sales to expand his Tuol Reachea pagoda in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, and denied other accusations.
“I have not cheated, robbed or forced anybody to pay – what they did, they did of their own accord,” Vuthy said.
“I made substantial efforts to save money to develop our nation and religion, and tried to help people escape depression by performing water blessings and occasionally telling their fortunes,” he continued.
On Sunday, Tuol Reachea pagoda was raided by authorities, who discovered diamonds, platinum and other expensive items. The pagoda was shut down but is expected to reopen before the Pchum Ben religious festival in September.
Vuthy said in front of Khin that he did not wish to destroy Cambodia’s religious traditions and would publicly repent, if required to do so. He said that he made mistakes because of his youth and ignorance of complex spiritual doctrines.
Chea Sam Arng, head of Kandal’s monks, said Vuthy first promoted himself as a reincarnated Samdech Chuon Nat, Cambodia’s former supreme patriarch, who died in 1969. It was only afterwards that Vuthy began claiming to be the fifth and final Buddha.
“He thought everyone in the world would respect him if he was a god, but you can’t become a god just like that,” Arng said.
Touch Sarom, secretary of state for the ministry, said a meeting will be held today to decide what measures will be taken against Vuthy in a transparent and balanced way.