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Monks Arrested for Serious Crimes During Spiritual Holiday

FILE - Cambodian Buddhist monks bless to Buddhist followers near Bayon temple in Siem Reap province, about 320 kilometers (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 27, 2010.

Two monks and four laymen were arrested at a pagoda in Siem Reap province over the holiday, accused of drinking alcohol and using drugs.

The Buddhist holiday of Pchum Ben is one of Cambodia’s holiest, during which deceased ancestors are remembered and “wandering ghosts,” those who have remained on Earth, are honored.

“It was a serious mistake, because a monk cannot drink alcohol or use drugs,” said venerable monk Kim Thoung, at the Taing Korsang Northern pagoda, outside Phnom Penh. Such monks could find themselves “in hell,” he said.

The arrests come amid reports that other monks have recently defrocked themselves and been found singing karaoke, drinking and soliciting sex from prostitutes.

Meanwhile, road accidents killed up to 10 people per day during the holiday, police said Tuesday. The fatalities were high compared to the holiday period last year, authorities said.