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All the young monks....

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Young cleric carries the English-language news to devotees

PETER OLSZEWSKI

Buddhist cleric Khuthey has gathered a circle of disciples around his readings of English-language newspapers.

The path to modern-day enlightenment in Siem Reap is through reading English-language newspapers - at least that's the gospel according to Buddhist monk Khuthey who preaches what he practices every day at the colourful riverside Wat Phras Prom Rath.

Khuthey is a devotee of English-language newspapers, and he passes his knowledge on to students in his daily lunchtime hourlong classes at the pagoda.

A tattered handwritten Khmer-language sign hung on a lamp post on Siem Reap's Pokambor Avenue draws the students to a very popular class, with up to 40 students in attendance daily, Monday to Friday.

The class is held away from the public area of the pagoda, in what is essentially the inner-sanctum next to the monks' sleeping quarters, and the students are almost exclusively male, including several monks.

But when the Post went to newspaper class, there was one brave young woman in attendance. She admitted she was nervous in such an all-male environment, but was determined to tough it out because she wanted to learn about newspapers.

Khuthey said he uses English-language newspapers as teaching aides because "basically I want them to get the news and I also want them to improve their English, and a newspaper is a good way to get their interest."

He said that gaining an understanding and appreciation of newspapers helps his students become aware.

"My students are young Cambodian people, and they should know what is happening in their country and around the world," he said.

"I think newspapers are very important because newspapers give people ideas, not just news, and they also teach people the lessons of life. I think there are many things students can get from learning to read a newspaper.

"I find that my students very much appreciate learning from newspapers. In fact they love it."

Khuthey became a monk in 2003 in Pouk province, about half an hour from Siem Reap, but he left Pouk after two weeks to come to town.

He also started teaching English in 2003, and, when he came to Wat Phras Prom Rath in February, he began teaching his popular newspaper class.

He feels more Cambodians are starting to read English-language newspapers because they consider them more credible than their Khmer-language counterparts.

"What I am finding is that more and more people in Cambodia are reading newspapers in English because they don't trust Khmer language newspapers. My opinion is that most Cambodian people think Khmer language newspapers all seem to be associated with some political party."

Without the crassness of prompting, monk-teacher Khuthey gave The Phnom Penh Post high marks for excellence.

He said, "I think it is one of the best newspapers because it has a good perspective, gives correct news, and it's fair.  I think it is very important to have this type of newspaper in Cambodia."

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