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A former mobile phone technician, Ream Phon helps monks produce their radio shows. Kimberley McCosker

Monks get on the air to spread the good word of Buddhism

Equipped with a 1kW transmitter, one pagoda is spreading the good word of Buddhism near and far

The monks of Wat Po Veal pagoda in Battambang province are among a growing number using an old technology to spread knowledge of even older traditions.

Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, the monks broadcast Buddhist morality, traditions and philosophy over the airways.

The pagoda’s 1kW transmitter, which can be heard as far away as neighbouring provinces, was switched on in April.

Head monk Suon Chhoeun said the radio station was a good way to spread Buddhist messages.

He said the pagoda’s programs were intended only to share teachings – they never touched on specific events, people or politics or controversial topics.

“It is important to help promote Buddhism so that people get to know more about it,” he said.

Ream Phon – who goes by the name Phanit – is one of the volunteers at the pagoda’s radio station – which was paid for with donations.

A former mobile phone technician, he was selected to produce programs because he had some knowledge of electronics. He now also presents a “life and health” program and tells funny stories.

“I started learning from the monks to be a radio presenter – they told me not to be afraid and talk as if we know each other,” the 33-year-old said.

Seng Someny, a spokesman from the Ministry of Cults and Religion, said broadcast media was key to improving the national character and he supported pagodas getting on the air.

He said five other pagodas in Cambodia had their own radio transmitters in Phnom Penh (Chum Thoeun), Takeo (Choun Kakada), Tbong Khmum, Siem Reap and Battambang town (Kleang Moeun).

Pagodas and individual monks sometimes also paid for airtime on other radio and television stations.

“If we broadcast Buddhist rules, it can reach a wide area and more people – both young and old – can learn to live a more moral life.”

He said that if people knew about and respected religious laws then they were more likely to respect secular laws.

“If each pagoda had a radio studio, it would be easier to publicise Buddhism more broadly,” he said.

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