Monday, December 31, 2007

Ouk Ratha - Buddhist monk arrested for molesting child tourist

A teenaged Cambodian Buddhist monk was jailed after being accused of molesting an 8-year-old French girl at the Angkor Wat temple complex, police said Monday. Sun Bunthong, chief of the anti-trafficking police in the northern province of Siem Reap, said Ouk Ratha, 17, had confessed to indecently assaulting the child after her parents lodged a complaint.

"He led the girl away and the parents thought nothing of it because he was dressed in a monk's saffron robes at a sacred place," Bunthong said by telephone. "Even when he brought the girl back, they asked him to take pictures because they thought he had been kind."

"It was only when the girl cried that they started to ask what was wrong," he said.

The incident happened Friday and the monk was defrocked, arrested and jailed Saturday, he said.

"The girl's parents want him educated so he will not hurt other children," Bunthong said. "Under the law, if he did this, he must go to jail."

Angkor Wat, about 400 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, is Cambodia's most sacred site and hosts more than a million foreign visitors a year.

In Cambodia's highly subjective court system, Ratha could face five to 20 years in prison if convicted, depending on how seriously the judge determines he has affected the nation's honour as well as the crime against the victim, police said.

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