A lazy Sunday afternoon. I’d just finished a yogurt shake at the Blue Pumpkin and was strolling off my topor on the riverside. In jeans and a t-shirt, I look like any other foreigner, possibly a tourist.

“Hello!” hailed the fake monk.


He didn’t realize I’d met his type before. New face, same outfit and scheme.

In Cambodia, real monks don’t solicit money in English from tourists.
Nor do they wear socks.
I whipped out my smartphone to take a picture.
“NO!” he shouted, and ducked into a nearby shop.

I was waiting as he came out – shouting ‘No!’ again.

And tried to ask another foreigner for money.

He quickly backed off seeing me still there, taking pictures.
Something to hide?

He was quite upset at the camera, but seemed to realize it would have been un-monk-like to grab it.

He hurried off down the street for easier targets. I waved at him as he looked back.

I would like to suggest a hash tag for tracking these scammers: #fakemonkPP
Sound good?

Addendum May 02:
The following weekend, I was having lunch and spotted another ‘monk’. He was politely escorted out of the café.
Note how the security guy takes off his hat and regains from touching him. Looking like a monk gets you the deference accorded to a monk.

But this ‘monk’ was not polite in turn. He was quite (physically) insistent that I delete the video I’d taken with my phone.

He even managed to get in the door again, and tried to indicate that the video I’d taken should be deleted. However, he could not express this sentiment in Khmer, despite repeated attempts to engage him.

He did slap down a Chinese language document (and emphatically pointed at it), seemingly as a way to indicate that he was legitimate.
Perhaps he is a member of a Buddhist organization, and dresses like a monk to accentuate it.
(I didn’t get a photo of this: he was quite angry and could have grabbed my phone.)

The heart of the issue (for me) is that something just doesn’t seem right. These guys are too ‘professional’. There are lots of people in need, and I’d prefer to see my donation go to someone who truly needs it.

So… what kind of monastic order accepts monks who are aggressive in their behavior and is sending them to Phnom Penh?
Why are these monks getting into restaurants while ordinary (and obviously) Khmer street beggars are firmly kept out?
Keep your camera phone handy.

4 Responses to “Fake Monks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Update)”

  1. [...] monks are hitting Phnom Penh.  A little funky in the stinky way, aren’t [...]

  2. [...] Wondering what fake monks look like? Artist John Weeks captured this video and has more great photos on his blog. [...]

  3. Totally fake – they get recruited in China, trained, and sent out like Mormons, but with less integrity. They’re turning up even in NZ, where they prey on the growing Chinese expat population (Kiwis will have none of them). The Khmers hate them but are too polite to get them out of their cafes and businesses.

  4. Jinja says:

    Looks like my video has been harvested for a Khmer language article.
    http://www.khmerleadership.org/2015/07/blog-post_47.html
    Would be nice to get a courtesy email, guys.

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