Stupefied and saddened
Returning from the province, it is with stupefaction and much sadness that I read
the article "God's paratrooper fires shots" (PPPost, March 23). I feel
humiliated and deeply wounded, because this article reflects absolutely neither my
thoughts, nor my words.
I ask to the high religious dignitaries who could have been offended by the remarks
attributed to me, and likewise to all the people "of good will" who believe
in the spiritual values for the construction of a better world and who could have
been hurt by this article, to really accept benevolently my most sincere and profound
apologies. I feel so fraternally in solidarity with the Buddhist clergy, of which
I share a certain number of views and practices, not to feel myself offended.
Here is my version of the facts:
Mr. Charles McDermid, through his Cambodian interpreter, asked me to grant him an
interview on the impact of Buddhism in the present Khmer society. Never it was mentioned
of a personal interview to be distributed as such, but of an article, like the Phnom
Penh Post is used to publish, and to which I sometimes contributed in the past. I
accepted, thinking of thus being able to help to better understand the Khmer society
at the sides of which I have walked for 41 years. We spoke in English, a language
that I know very little, and of which I ignore all the nuances. Often I did not understand
the questions, and undoubtedly the author of the article did not understand all my
answers. He wrote his article afterwards, asked himself his own questions to which
he answered by including bits of our conversation. This way of working is dishonest,
because it can only deform my thoughts, on such a delicate topic.
This mister should have observed the most elementary principle of the journalistic
deontology (at least in the French way), consisting in making read again an interview
by its author before publication, especially an interview of such an aggressive virulence
that I deplore. He did not do it, so my stupor and consternation, at the reading
of this article which I estimate defamatory and offensive for many of my Buddhist
With regard to Samdech Akéa Bandet Moha Sang Tep Vong, I spoke to him lengthily
of its regretted predecessors: Samdech Chuon Nath, Samdech Préah Samdech Sangkréach
Huot That, Préah Vannarat, Préah Khieu Choum, Préah Pankhat,
etc. who were then the intellectual guides of my youth. I explained to him that all
the religious dignitaries had been killed by the Khmer Rouge, and that it was a considerable
loss, because much time was needed to train monks. I also explained to him the reasons
which pushed the government of the RPK to place Samdech at the head of the Buddhist
clergy in 1979, in a precise political context, and reported the comments of a person
in charge in the cultural ministry that McDermid attributes to me wrongly. May Samdech
please excuse me.
It is the same for Samdech Bou Kry, who is a friend of long time. I have evoked old
memories at the time when he was in Créteil, and also at the time of one conversation
on the radio and in various pagodas of France.
It does not belong to me, a foreigner, and of another religious tradition, to judge
these venerable monks who live Buddhism from the inside. The difficulty of interreligious
dialogue is not due to the persons, but to the cultural and philosophical universes
so distant that are ours. The only dialogue which seems possible to me is that of
the Christian who let himself be influenced deeply by Buddhism, and of the Buddhist
who let himself be influenced by Christianity and who tries to dialogue inside of
himself. But that the author did not retain.
It is true that I voiced a somewhat discording tone in the concert of praises concerning
the venerable Samdech Préah Moha Gosananda, called Moha Yao, the Cambodian
Gandhi. I knew him in 1983 in his American residence of Hanover Street, Providence
(RI). I voiced some reservations on his attitude at the time of our audience with
Jean Paul II in Rome in 1985, but I leave the whole paternity to the author of the
article for the qualifications, several times repeated, by which he qualifies this
venerated monk, and of whom I respect the memory, like many Cambodians.
I do not see, on the other hand, why using my personal history of a conscript of
the French Republic, against my liking, to do a shock article, of which I ignore
the deep motivations. The hazards of my personal life of yesteryear, once again that
I did not choose, have no direct links with my spiritual commitment to the Khmer
people that I try to serve the best I can, even if I do it sometimes awkwardly.
In ending, I renew my most sincere and deepest apologies to the religious dignitaries
who could have felt offended by the odious words attributed to me, but that
I deny. I feel as much offended as themselves.