A Vajrayana teacher accused of gross sexual misconduct will appear in a Malaysian court on 15 November on unrelated charges of overstaying his visa, and potentially falsifying his profession for said visa.
Chagtrul Thupten Thinley Rinpoche, who is legally an Indian national, has been charged under Malaysian immigration laws for overstaying in the country on the basis of an engineering visa (as far as we are aware, he is not an engineer or contracted to, or employed by, any company working with engineers).
In September, I reported here that Chagtrul Thupten Thinley had been accused of gross sexual misconduct from 7 years ago by a Malaysian woman. I had met this woman personally and seen the police report she filed. Since she went public, two more reports concerning crimes of a sexual nature have been filed to the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP). The police have stated that there will be no further investigations on this particular front, citing the length of time since the cases happened years ago, as well as a lack of hard evidence.
The follow-up scrutiny of this teacher in the Chinese-language press around Kuala Lumpur led to an initial police investigation, which in turn opened the inquiry into Chagtrul Thupten Thinley’s immigration and visa status.
The police’s statement that there will be no further investigations into Chagtrul Thupten Thinley’s alleged sexual misconduct illustrates the challenges for women that choose to go public with the crimes that allegedly happened to them. Social pressures, guilt, and self-blame (as well as gaslighting on part of the accused) can lead to many years lapsing before they muster the resolve to report their incident. Furthermore, in many countries it is notoriously difficult to prove cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape in a court of law. Malaysia is no exception.
However, the fact that a teacher that claims to be of a legitimate branch of Vajrayana is appearing in court based on accusations of having given false legal information is concerning to Malaysian Buddhists. It raises questions about Chagtrul Thupten Thinley’s fundamental integrity on other issues, including his interactions with his students and community. Finally, it could lead to burgeoning pressure on the Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia (VCBM) to make a statement on the unfolding events, especially after the 15th. While Chagtrul Thupten Thinley is not a member or associate of VCBM, as the self-proclaimed umbrella group for the country’s Vajrayana communities, some are saying that it would be morally beneficial for the VCBM to look into the matter with an open mind as to where any investigations lead.
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