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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bad Buddhists behave: PM

Bad Buddhists behave: PM

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Hun Sen urges wayward monks to follow Buddha's rules

Photo by:
Kem Sovannara

Prime Minister Hun Sen prays Thursday at the closing ceremony of the 17th annual Sangha congress in Phnom Penh.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday appealed to the Kingdom's Buddhist clergy to behave, saying monks' misdeeds are causing citizens to lose respect for religion and thereby hastening a decline in religious belief.

"If monks cause social problems, it is very difficult for me," Hun Sen said during the closing ceremony of the 17th monk congress Thursday in Phnom Penh.

"If monks behave disreputably, I will not help. I will run away, and those monks will have no one but themselves to blame when people lose confidence in Buddhist monks," he said.

Hun Sen urged the Sangha - or community of monks - to respect the Vinaya - the rules by which monks must live. He said he had been shocked when he saw Buddhist monks dancing in a recording on one of his children's mobile phones, and mentioned an unidentified temple where the chief monk had collected money from ceremonies to buy himself a car.

However, he said this did not reflect on the overall spiritual health of the nation.

"These are individual monks making problems. Citizens should not consider it an issue of the whole religion, but equally, we must not be careless over the issue," Hun Sen said.

Chea Vannath, an independent social analyst, said that disputes between monks, or between monks and laypeople, were increasing.  

"With a growing culture of  globalisation and materialism, both monks and officials are seeking their personal happiness and have stopped concentrating on the rules of Buddha," she said.

But others welcomed monks increasingly moving into the secular sphere, with Min Khin, minister of cults and religions, using his speech at the closing ceremony to highlight the contribution some 20,000 monks who voted in the July national election made to the victory of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

"Monks have played an important role in the development of the nation and in the recent election," Min Khin said.

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