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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Samdech Preah Poh Ti Veang

Samdech Preah Poh Ti Veang


First Deputy Patriarch, Wat Botum Pagoda, 76 years old


irst Deputy Patriarch

Wat Botum Pagoda, 76 years old

"IN MY GENERATION, life was very broad-ranging and free. We had open hearts,

but we were still too young to know many things. We just knew how to be happy, especially

when eight to ten years old.

"There were no motorcycles or TV then. The kind of vehicle my people used in

the 1930s was called 'klet', a type of wooden bicycle. And there were not many of

them to go around - in one commune, there was just one.

"There were not many people in my home town of Takeo when I was young and during

the French era, but during the Heng Samrin regime, the population began to grow and

grow. And during that regime, people in the countryside began to get TVs, bicycles,

and so on. But when I was 13 or 14, we had nothing like that.

"Some changes in Cambodia have been good, some have been bad. There has been

warfare, hardship and distress. Especially during the Pol Pot regime, of course.

As you know, culture and tradition were all demolished by Pol Pot. But some people

found the changes good after the Khmer Rouge regime when society was developed step-by-step.

"It seems to me that even since before the KR regime the Khmer politicians have

had the idea of making war, especially civil warfare. But the Khmers are naturally

very gentle - they have never invaded neighboring countries.

"The marvel of the Angkor era used to spread into Thailand Vietnam and Burma,

but then because Khmer people were too gentle some parts of the territory were captured

and some were lost.

"The Khmer people are generous but since I grew up, I have seen only fighting.

And when Khmers have quarrels or warfare, they always run to or rely on other countries,

like Thailand or Vietnam. And then foreign countries come to interfere.

"But there was no fighting during the fifteen years of leadership of King Sihanouk.

"I know nothing much about life, because I have been a monk since the age of

18, and at the time I didn't think that life was too hard. We just followed our rules

- until the KR regime. I was defrocked by the Khmer Rouge, but I did not complain

about their policy, because we just remember the Buddhist teachings to ourselves.

The life of children in the old generation was that they had no ambition, violence,

envy or anger. They only thought of good deeds. The life of children now is very

brutal. If we compare the generations, the life of children in the old generation

was better than in the present.

"People in the old generation were more honest. As I notice, now all kinds of

Khmer - blue, red, and white [political leanings] have come to help renunciation

of the country. But Khmer people still have ideas of anger against each other. Ambition

or violence and envy are present.

"During the old time, the children had simple lives, but now they have modern

things imported from other countries. But the culture is violent. Because the modern

materials cheat the spirit of the people, so they have lost their morality and their

culture - except the monks. The monks protect the Buddhist culture and morality,

because foreign culture flows into Cambodia. Children born in 1983 or 1984 know only

about modern materials. Debaucherous activities came into our society, and Khmer

children have been spoilt.

"But the most marvelous achievement of Cambodia over the last century was during

the old days, and came from King Sihanouk. He made the country peaceful for 17 years,

from 1953-1970. We had real peace then."



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