Cambodian police seek Buddhist monk who eloped with child bride

DPA, April 11, 2006

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Authorities were seeking a runaway Buddhist monk after he allegedly tossed aside his vows and eloped with a 12-year-old girl late last month, police said on Tuesday.

The anti-trafficking police chief for central Kampong Chhnang province, Prak Soany, said Sam Sern, 25, had apparently eloped with the girl on March 23 but the family had only reported her missing a week later after losing hope she might return.

They decided to go public nearly three weeks after her disappearance, he added, after police had been unable to locate the couple and had decided to post photos of the two in towns across Cambodia.

“We don’t know where they are now,” he admitted. “He has been defrocked from the monkhood, and we are continuing our search.”

The girl’s family said the monk had visited the girl regularly since she turned 11, giving her presents of money and even a mobile phone, but they had never thought of the relationship as a romantic one.

They added that the girl appeared to have gone willingly and has since told them that she would not return until the pair had produced a child together.

If caught and convicted, Sern faces charges of trafficking and sex with a minor and a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail.