Monks behaving badly

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Phnom Penh Post photo

“Monks Behaving Badly” is the title of this article from the Post. It’s a general investigation of the state of monkish morals, and what happens when monks go bad. It says (or rather, an interviewee says) that Cambodians respect the robe rather than the person wearing it. True not only in Cambodia but throughout Southeast Asia so far as I know. The robe is the token of a decision to earn merit, it doesn’t imply that the owner is a man of merit.

It mentions a recent case of four monks arrested for drinking and dancing with girls in a karaoke bar. That infringes two cardinal rules, maybe three – against drink, music, and touching women (I’m assuming they were touching). The penalty as laid down in the rules of the monkhood is disrobing (getting tossed pout of the monastery). It then discusses the question of who can discipline monks, and especially whether the police can disrobe them. The official answer is no, the unofficial answer is yes. It comes down to what type of offense the monk has committed – if it’s a moral one, the abbot disrobes him. The police can investigate monks who break criminal laws, like this monk who raped a British tourist (the article is a catalog  of monks raping women and girls, many of them foreigners). Officially the abbot does the disrobing, but it seems to be the police. In real life there’s a huge grey area involving monks who get into social activism – here’s an article from the Cambodia Daily about some monks who were arrested and defrocked for carrying a flag – a political offense, not a moral one.

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