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Tight leash for monks

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Monks line up in front of Angkor Wat during a Visak Bochea Day ceremony in April.

Buddhist monks will be allowed to watch boat races during the upcoming water festival – but only from a safe distance.

The Ministry of Cults and Religions says it has banned Buddhist monks from walking freely among the crowd during the three-day festival, which runs November 20-22, in order to preserve proper Buddhist morality.

“We are not prohibiting the Buddhist monks from taking part during the festival if the monks will gather and sit in one place that is not too close to the crowd,” said Dork Narin, secretary of state at the Ministry.

“In order to keep monks in [line with] good Buddhist concepts and to keep a neutral mind, we will not allow the monks to walk freely in the crowd because the monks could break the rules if they see a sexy lady or a couple kissing in the crowd,” he added.

Monks are expected to remain celibate, refrain from touching or being alone with women, and are forbidden to drink alcohol.

A committee has been set up to monitor monks’ behaviour during the festival, said Ten Borana, personal assistant to the Kingdom’s chief Buddhist monk Non Nget, who was unavailable for comment yesterday due to illness.

“We will bring the monks back to the pagoda where they are from and if the monks seriously break Buddhist concepts they would be punished,” Ten Borana said.
At least 20 Buddhist monks were disciplined at last year’s water festival for allegedly walking amongst the crowd and flirting with girls, he added.

Hundreds of wooden boats will compete in races during the festival, which will see an estimated 2 million descend on Phnom Penh. The annual celebration marks the reversal of the Tonle Sap River at the close of the rainy season.



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