The monk, Bun Sim was sleeping in his third-floor bedroom at the Watt Samakki Buddhist Temple in Brooklyn, New York, when the robbers, armed with a gun and a knife, entered attempting to steal valuables.
Despite their efforts, the thieves only managed to take a small amount of cash from the donation jar and personal belongings from the monks and a retired handyman present at the time at the temple at Rugby Road in Flatbush.
At least one assailant had a gun, according to the police.
Mr Sim told Daily News that one of the robbers pointed a gun at his bedroom door as another tried to shove it open. Mr Sim resisted by pushing against the door and for self-defence, he quickly seized a nearby shelf bracket intended for wall mounting.
The robbers backed off.
“I tried to make them afraid,” Mr Sim told the outlet. “I didn’t want to hit them. If we are scared, they will destroy us. We have to scare them and protect the temple.”
“I want to protect myself,” he added. “I don’t want to destroy other people.”
Local media noted that the robbery has left the temple community shaken, fearing the impact on future donations and the safety of the monks, who are seen as vulnerable targets due to their non-violent beliefs and practices.
The robbers reportedly couldn’t get much – about $50 from the donation jar at the feet of the temple’s first-floor Buddha idols and another $60 taken from monk Cannoeun Poun, 43, who was on the second floor when one robber approached him with a knife.
“I saw one knife and two people,” Mr Poun recounted. “He said, ‘Where’s the money?’”
The robbers took two cell phones from Mr Poun.
A Buddhist monk used a spare shelf bracket to hold off a pair of gun-wielding bandits during the robbery of his Brooklyn temple.
“I tried to make them afraid. I didn’t want to hit them,” Bun Sim told the Daily News.https://t.co/UAL2pYzLIE
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 12, 2024
“I was scared. It was a first time for me. I see knife, I’m scared.”
Kay Sok, a 67-year-old retired handyman who previously worked and still resides at the temple, was in the basement bathroom when an intruder surprised him by pressing something against his back.
Without seeing what it was, Mr Sok attempted to calm the masked thief by saying “Tranquilo, tranquilo,” trying to prevent any hasty actions from the robber.
The temple, a place of prayer and meditation for the Cambodian community in New York since 1987, relies on donations for its upkeep.