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Misbehaving monks scolded at national religious congress

091230_03
Monks chant as Senate President Chea Sim enters the stage at Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to open the 18th National Monk Congress.

WE KNOW THAT SOME MONKS HAVE COMMITTED SINS SUCH AS KILLING, RAPE...

SENATE President Chea Sim has called on Cambodia’s supreme patriarchs to reel in wayward monks following a spate of violent incidents this year involving religious figures.

“The role of monks is very important to educate the social morality of the people,” Chea Sim said in a speech before 800 monks and nuns at the 18th annual National Monk Congress, which opened Tuesday at Chaktomuk Theatre.

“But monks themselves must have a Buddhist’s morality to encourage the national religion.”

Chea Sim urged officials at the Ministry of Cults and Religions to “reinforce the good governance” of Buddhism to ensure peace in the Kingdom.

“The teachings of the Buddha are the light that will educate the people about morality and allow our country to develop peacefully,” Chea Sim said.

“The discrimination, jealousy and violations in social society are caused from indifference to religious belief and are seriously damaging.”

In recent months, however, several monks appear to have strayed from the path, with allegations of murder, sexual relationships, alcohol consumption and rape directed at a handful of monks.

Min Khin, the cults and religions minister, acknowledged that authorities were concerned about the allegations. He blamed incidences of bad monastic behaviour on “globalisation”, which he said causes some people – including monks – to make mistakes.

“We know that some monks have committed sins such as killing, rape and violence,” Min Khin said. “But hopefully, the three days of this National Monk Congress will improve monks and encourage them to reinforce the good governance of Buddhism.”

Min Khin said monks must play an integral role in building Cambodia’s developing society.

“The monk’s role is not only to pray or spread the teachings of the Buddha, but also to build roads, schools, hospitals and to protect our … national culture.”

Cambodia’s Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong sidestepped questions over incidences of bad behaviour among individual monks, except to say that all Cambodians should follow the law.

“I think that Buddhists and all people who live in Cambodia must respect the law and other national and international laws,” Tep Vong said. “The monks must respect all laws … to eliminate suffering, jealousy, violence and social discrimination.”

In October, 11 monks in Siem Reap province were defrocked following an all-night alcohol-fuelled bender after shocked villagers demanded that the monks be punished. Later that month, two monks in Phnom Penh were arrested after allegedly beating a medical student to death after the victim chastised them for drinking.

According to Min Khin, the country currently has 4,392 pagodas, 1,370 Buddhist schools and 54,764 ordained monks.

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