Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried three people for allegedly posing as monks to collect money from the public while getting rides from their tuk-tuk driver, who is being tried as an accomplice to fraud.
Presiding Judge Key Manera identified them as Phuong Chhay, 18, Phin Sarom, 34, Poy Yath, 38, and Run Phearum, a 32-year-old tuk-tuk driver.
He said all four hailed from Prey Veng province’s Mesang district, adding that they resided in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district.
Judge Manera said Mr Chhay, Mr Sarom and Mr Yath were arrested on March 26 by district police in Phnom Penh Thmey commune after being caught posing as Buddhist monks. He said they were charged with unauthorised wearing of Buddhist robes, as well as fraud.
Judge Manera added that Mr Phearum, who worked for them as a driver, was charged with being an accomplice to fraud.
Judge Manera said that at about 7am on the day of their arrests, Mr Phearum drove Mr Chhay, Mr Sarom and Mr Yath to an empty plot of land in Pong Peay area.
He said after parking, Mr Phearum closed the curtains of his tuk-tuk while the three men changed into their Buddhist robes inside, noting that the group intended to go to the local market to collect money.
“When Mr Phearum closed the curtains, district police forces patrolling nearby became suspicious and inspected his vehicle,” Judge Manera said. “After police opened the curtains, officers saw Mr Chhay, Mr Sarom and Mr Yath putting on their robes inside.”
“Police then arrested all of them immediately,” he added.
Judge Manera said following their arrests, police confiscated the Buddhist robes as well as other related materials such as bowls, bags and umbrellas, as well as the tuk-tuk from them.
During yesterday’s hearing, the four accused admitted committing the offence, saying that they needed to earn money to support their families.
They said that they had been posing as monks for a month before they were arrested, noting that they earned between $10 and $12.50 per day from donations. The four requested the court for minimum sentence.
Mr Sarom said they started posing as monks in February after buying robes from Phsar O’Russey market in Prampi Makara district.
He said every morning, Mr Phearum would drive them from their rental houses in Sen Sok district to local markets and other public places where they would collect money.
He added that they would collect enough money by 11am.
“I know that my activities were harmful, making people believe I was a monk, and also violate state laws,” he told the court. “But it was an easy way to make money to support my poor family.”
“If I worked as a construction worker or a motorbike taxi driver, I could not earn up to $10 a day,” he added.
Mr Phearum confessed that he agreed to work for Mr Chhay, Mr Sarom and Mr Yath because they paid him generously, noting that he received $10 per day for driving them.
“I acknowledge my mistake,” he said. “I would like the court to give me a minimum sentence.”
A verdict is due October 4.