Ministry of Religion Orders Search for Masturbating Monk

The Ministry of Cults and Religion and senior members of the country’s Buddhist clergy are leading the hunt for an errant monk after catching wind of his Facebook page, which features videos of him masturbating and photographs of him displaying wads of cash.

The clergy has been searching for Va Sinan since earlier this week, when the videos and photos—ranging from innocuous to ostentatious to vulgar—began appearing on his fan page, said Khim Sorn, chief of the secretariat of the country’s dominant Mohanikaya Buddhist sect.

A photograph of Va Sinan that was posted to his Facebook page this week (Reuters)
A photograph of Va Sinan that was posted to his Facebook page this week (Reuters)

“When we find him, we will make a complaint and force him to defrock,” he said. “The religion is to be respected; he cannot mistreat it like this.”

In the most graphic Facebook video, which was uploaded on Thursday afternoon, Va Sinan masturbates with his robes tied above his waist. In another, he is holding a smartphone in one hand and waving about U.S. notes in the other.

Khim Sorn said Va Sinan had been described as charismatic but erratic by fellow monks who lived with him at several pagodas in Phnom Penh.

“People say he can preach well,” he said. “The last place he moved was to a pagoda in Battambang province, but when I contacted the monks there, they said he had already gone.”

Va Sinan was kicked out of Phnom Penh’s Wat Chbar Ampov pagoda in February over a “similar scandal” involving nude photos, Khim Sorn said, adding that he did not know the details of that case.

On Thursday evening, Va Sinan posted a video to his Facebook page claiming that he was in Thailand and that his smartphone had been hacked.

“I want to tell the Buddhist people that my phone was missing and someone took it and, while my Facebook account was logged in, they posted the bad photos,” he said, though he did not deny that the videos and images were of him.

The monkhood has been beset with embarrassments and crime in recent years, but the clergy and Religion Ministry have routinely distanced themselves from the cases.

While some cases were minor—a senior monk was demoted after singing for a crowd during the Khmer New Year holiday—others were not: A pagoda chief was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month for raping 10 young monks in his care.

Just this week, three monks were arrested for smoking crystal methamphetamine in their rooms. Another video circulated on Facebook this week appears to show a monk smoking meth with several women.

Maintaining that these monks did not reflect the state of the Buddhist order in the country, Khim Sorn blamed the existence of poorly behaved monks on parents who view pagodas as de facto reform schools.

“Now they bring the drug addicts to join the monkhood and when we beat them to educate them, the parents file a complaint against us,” he said, adding that senior clergy members were advised in April to employ a stricter vetting process for would-be monks.

“We had a meeting and decided that someone cannot become a monk unless they have a clean history. Even if they want to be monks just for a week or a month, they must have a recommendation” from local officials, he said.

Asked what the Religion Ministry was doing to address the problem, spokesman Seng Somony reiterated familiar pronouncements about “educating” monks to fix their errant ways.

“We often broadcast about laws and make announcements to monks,” he said. “The senior monks are enforcing the Buddha’s discipline, and the ministry is strengthening the laws.”

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