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Minister of Cults and Religion Him Chhem speaks in the National Assembly yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Minister of Cults and Religion Him Chhem speaks in the National Assembly yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Religion minister takes questions at assembly

Lawmaker yesterday grilled Minister of Cults and Religions Him Chhem over plans to relocate the ministry’s headquarters and convert the old building into a school for monks.

Speaking to reporters after his questioning by the National Assembly’s commission on education, culture and religious affairs, Chhem described plans to move the ministry to the current Buddhist Institute site by 2018, saying construction on a new building to house ministry staff at the location began on December 28.

Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith, who chairs the commission, meanwhile said the minister told lawmakers that the current ministry building would become an education centre for student monks, plans with which the group agreed.

Chhem also responded to claims of a lack of discipline within the monkhood, including several cases of monks engaging in criminal behaviour, saying the clergy would convene monk assemblies to solve cases of wrongdoing, according to Ponhearith. Ponhearith also said Chhem testified that the ministry would “consider” taking further measures against people who insult the religion.

The CNRP spokesman also stressed that more needed to be done to improve the standard of Buddhist instruction at the university level. “The quality of education is still limited in comparison to other universities.”

He added that his commission also planned to summon ministers for culture and fine arts, education and tourism.

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