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Former abbot denies rape charge in court

Former abbot denies rape charge in court

The former abbot of Wat Thala Borivath in Stung Treng province stood trial yesterday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on suspicion of raping a 23-year-old student in Phnom Penh.

Men Tum, 39, was arrested on July 16 at his house in Stung Treng province’s Thala Borivath village and held in pre-trial detention after his alleged victim, a student at Pannasastra University, filed a complaint to police.

Municipal Court presiding judge Duch Kimsorn said that questioning of the suspect and other witnesses suggested that the former abbot and his alleged victim had been in a loving relationship since 2005, a time spanning his tenure as abbot at Wat Thala Borivath.

“According to the hearing and the testimony of witnesses, as well as answers given by Men Tum, the relationship between the suspect and the victim was very close, and they loved each other for many years,” Duch Kimsorn said.

According to the complaint filed with police, the victim said she had known Men Tum since 2005, when she met him at the pagoda during a visit to relatives in Stung Treng province.

She said the two remained in contact by telephone after she returned to Phnom Penh and that the relationship was cordial.

“On December 22, 2009, Men Tum as a Buddhist monk asked me to meet him at house number 28 in Ounalom pagoda in Phnom Penh and forced me to have sex. He raped me in the house,” the victim said in her complaint, adding that a week later Men Tum asked her to return to the house and raped her again.

She said that after the rape when she discovered that she was five months pregnant, she accompanied Men Tum to Vietnam for an abortion.

Men Tum has denied the rape and told the court that he and the alleged victim had consensual sex several times in guesthouses in Phnom Penh after he gave up his vows at the pagoda.

“Since I quit being a monk, I had sex with her at least 30 times in guesthouses, and each time I never forced her but we agreed about it together, and from that time I considered that she was my wife,” he said.

Duch Kimsorn said a verdict in the case was expected on February 16.

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