Kambol district police in Phnom Penh on July 14 revealed the identities of 18 suspects three days after their arrest for impersonating monks and deceiving the public into given them money in the form of alms.

“The offenders impersonated monks to get money from people. They are the ones to trample on Buddhism as they are followers of Buddha,” said district deputy police chief Chhim Savuth.

He said residents in the district notified police on July 12, saying a group of people had rented houses in Borey Piphup Thmey – a gated residential community – in the district. But in the morning, they always noticed many monks leaving the houses to collect alms from the public.

After receiving the report, district police chief Hang Mony ordered a search. On July 12, police found nine people dressed in saffron robes and a driver waiting to collect them in Prey Boeung village in Kantaok commune in the district and the police arrested them.

After detaining 10 people, police then arrested and detained another eight people. The group was sent to a pagoda in the district to be disrobed. They were then taken to the district police station.

Savut said they had had impersonated monks to collect alms for a long time and were helped by a facilitator identified only as Meng, 25, who is currently on the run.

After questioning, police learned that each person had raised 80,000 riel to 100,000 riel ($20 to $25) a day, but each of them had to pay a broker 30,000 to 35,000 riel. Police are searching for the broker.