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Troubled times for monks at Pailin's party pagoda

Troubled times for monks at Pailin's party pagoda

Party time is over for the Wat Kang Kong in Pailin. Scandalous activities among the monks forced the authorities to close the pagoda and expel most of the holy men.

M

onks singing Karaoke and disco dancing in the wee hours? No. Monks bringing girls

back to the pagoda and turning religious ceremonies into parties? No.

Well, yes. That's exactly what some of the monks in the Wat Kong Kang in Pailin have

been up to lately. In fact, the saffron-robed holy men's behavior became so outrageous

that Pailin authorities last month decided to close the pagoda and expel most of

the more than 20 monks living there.

Today, the pagoda at the entry road to Pailin is quiet again, with only one of the

three main gates open. Drink vendors and moto-dops still hover in front of the entrance

and worshippers still light incense in the beautifully painted and marbled halls

of the wat.

But the congregation of monks inside has been reduced to a mere four, including two

very young novices. They were the only ones allowed to stay after a meeting between

Pailin authorities and senior monks from Phnom Penh resulted in the closing of the

wat.

One of them, a 71-year-old monk who declines to give his name, shakes his head in

disbelief when talking about his former fellow monks' activities.

"It was not normal. They took off their robes to go dancing and invited girls

back to the pagoda. This also led to arguments and fighting among the monks,"

he says.

On at least two occasions, religious ceremonies in the pagoda developed into very

noisy parties. Afterwards some monks would venture out to the downtown Karaoke bars.

Others speak of Buddha statues mysteriously gone missing, bad magic and jealousy

disputes. There has even been reports of monks threatening each other with guns.

Everybody, however, is quick to point out that the scandalous monks were not from

Pailin. They had moved to the town from other wats all over the country, and most

of them were young, in their early twenties.

Quiet and serene as it looks, the Wat Kong Kang in Pailin recently erupted in unholy parties and jealous fighting among the monks. Last month, the scandalous activities forced Pailin authorities to close the pagoda and expel a majority of the monks living there.

The trouble apparently began when a 71-year-old monk, Sonn Sovann, came to the pagoda.

He is said to have run away from a pagoda in Phnom Penh.

"If we had let it carry on for much longer, there would have been no statues

left in the pagoda," says Pailin Chief of Cabinet, Mei Meakk.

"The advice we got from the chief monk in Phnom Penh was to make the bad monks

leave. So we had a meeting to determine who were the good monks that were allowed

to stay."

The word on the street is that Sovann ran away to Thailand when expelled from the

Pailin pagoda.

"I think all the other young ones went back to the wats they came from before,"

says the old monk.

There has been no decision as to when more monks will be allowed back into the pagoda.

But next month Pailin will celebrate the inauguration of the town's other wat on

the top of Phnom Yat

Wat Phnom Yat was severely damaged during the long years of war, but has now been

almost fully restored.

"We will have a big ceremony to celebrate the opening. It will last for three

days and three nights," says an optimistic Mei Meakk.

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