Staff from the Ministry of Cults and Religion seized promotional material from a man claiming to be a Buddhist “god” on Sunday in Kandal province, officials said yesterday.
The operation was conducted at Reachea pagoda, where Thean Vuthy had been promoting himself as the fifth and final Buddha.
According to a July 28 letter from the ministry obtained yesterday, Vuthy’s claim “seriously offends the values of our state religion of Buddhism”.
Phay Bun Chhoeun, Kandal governor, said he received the letter last Wednesday and sent a letter to Koh Thom district authorities telling them to take immediate action.
“Action will be taken on everything in this case,” said Chhoeun, explaining that Vuthy’s distribution and sale of religious items will be stopped. “We ban all the actions.”
Chhoeun was not aware exactly when Vuthy’s supposedly divine promotional campaign began.
“The action clearly affects Buddhism. [Vuthy] is an individual, not a god,” he said.
Hieng Sina, Porban commune police chief, said the Cults and Religion officers and police went to the pagoda after receiving a letter from the provincial governor, questioning and “educating” five laymen and women.
“They are the vendors of Thean Vuthy’s items. We obtained hundreds of photos and discs from them,” he said, adding that the items were taken to the provincial Cult and Religions Department, but no one was arrested. Mr Thean Vuthy is not at the pagoda. We do not know where he is,” Sina went on to say.
Vuthy, who could not be reached yesterday, has produced many lavishly illustrated photos of himself wearing the clothes of a god, which he printed on CD covers and had distributed. In one CD case’s back cover, Vuthy appears to have been digitally altered to show his face on a holy figure wearing green and gold and sitting on a luxuriant pink lotus.