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Buddhist Monks Fend Off Armed Thieves at Brooklyn Temple


A Thai Buddhist temple in Brooklyn, New York, was robbed at gunpoint over the weekend. Police are seeking suspects involved in the robbery, which targeted Buddhist monks residing at Watt Samakki-Dhammikaram, located near the Prospect Park South neighborhood. The incident took place on Sunday afternoon and left several monks shaken, including one who used a shelf bracket to fend off the thieves.

According to Suthaea Kong, one of the monks, the robbers forcibly entered the temple on Rugby Road in Flatbush at around 2:30 p.m. The armed assailants, at least three in number and wearing masks, broke in through the back door, before ransacking several rooms, throwing papers and books on the ground in search of valuables.

Kong described his feelings at the time: “I scared . . . because first time for me.” He recounted seeing the men: “Knife, knife, I look at knife . . . gun . . . gun.” (CBS News)

Monk Channoeun Poun, 43, also encountered the thieves and demanded that they leave.

“He said, ‘Go out!’ but they came up to him and one of them had a knife,” said Kong. “They pointed it behind his back and told him to go back to his bed and lie down and go to sleep. Don’t move.” (New York Post)

Bun Sim, an older monk who was at the temple at the time, decided to fight back. At one point he picked up a shelf mounting bracket and threatened the thieves, who backed off.

“I tried to make them afraid,” Sim said. “I didn’t want to hit them. If we are scared, they will destroy us. We have to scare them and protect the temple.” He added: “I want to protect myself. I don’t want to destroy other people.” (The Independent)

The suspects took valuables, including cellphones and several hundred dollars in cash, which included donations collected in a box. Members of the community arrived on Monday with food and well-wishes for the monastics, but expressed concern for the safety of the monks. One community member said, “I’m not good. My feeling, I’m worried about my temple.” (CBS News)


Despite the fear and distress caused by the robbery, the monks expressed forgiveness toward the perpetrators. “I want to send a message that we do love and kindness for all the people who do good and who do bad. We want them to give up all the bad things in daily life,” Kong said. “You have to work. You have to find money appropriately in daily life.” (New York Post)

The temple has been part of the community for more than 35 years and plans to continue welcoming people, despite the incident.

“We have to live peacefully; help other people and make other people happy is better, this is our way,” Kong reiterated in another interview. “We wish them to change their mind and never do this again whichever, whenever they don’t do this with other people, I hope this is the last for them because destroying other people is not good.” (ABC7NY)

None of the monks were hurt in the robbery and the suspects are still at large. Police are not currently pursuing this as a hate crime.

Anyone with information about the case can call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

See more

Buddhist monks used coat hanger in defense after armed gang stormed NYC temple, urge bungling thieves to ‘give up’ crime (New York Post)
Buddhist monk in Brooklyn holds off armed robbers with shelf bracket (The Independent)
Armed burglars kicked in back door of Buddhist temple in Brooklyn, police say (CBS News)
Brooklyn Buddhist temple ransacked during armed robbery (ABC7NY)

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