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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monks get Elephants off the airwaves

Monks get Elephants off the airwaves

The popular rock opera has been banned from broadcast

CAMBODIA'S Council of Ministers called last week for a suspension of any further television broadcasts of the rock opera Where Elephants Weep pending changes to the script and a meeting between the national epic's writer and director, and the Kingdom's Supreme Sangha, or council of monks.

The Council of Ministers met on Tuesday in response to complaints that the opera contained scenes deemed offensive to Cambodia's Buddhist community.

Phay Siphan, spokesman and secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, told the Post Thursday that the council supports the opera but has prohibited its broadcast on television and demanded the writer and director appear before the Sangha to answer specific concerns over content.

"We sent the results of our meeting to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and we are waiting for his reply," Phay Siphan said.

"Our government knows well that Buddhism is the state religion, and we will protect and promote it. But we also support and encourage [the opera's] global performance in order to promote our culture internationally [but with] improvements to some of the verse and scenes in the story," he added.

The opera premiered in preview performances in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 2007. It debuted in Cambodia on November 28 and ran successfully through December 7 before airing on local television in late December.

We sent the results of our

meeting to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

But Cambodia's Sangha complained in a December 30 letter to the Ministry of Cults and Religion that the show dishonoured the Buddhist religion and asked that it be banned from future stage performances and from national television, and that the cast and crew apologise.

American playwright Catherine Filloux, who wrote the opera, and musical composer Him Sophy told the Post last week by email that opera organisers were working with marketing managers and relevant government ministries to resolve the situation. Him Sophy added Thursday that opera officials were working on explanations for specific concerns raised by the Sangha.

Elephants is a post-Khmer Rouge take on the Cambodian classic Tom Tiev, telling the story of a Cambodian-American man who becomes a monk in order to find his Cambodia roots.

The Sangha took exception to several scenes in the opera but expressed particular concern to a scene in which an actor [Michael Lee] "left the monkhood and slept with a woman, but a moment later put the robe back on to be a monk again", the complaint letter stated.



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