Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prisoner reform and supporting the elderly through Buddhist teachings



Prisoner reform and supporting the elderly through Buddhist teachings

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Founded by Hak Seang Hai in July 2012, Buddhism for Education of Cambodia aims to promote morality and wellbeing in its students. The project works mainly with young people, prisoners, impoverished elderly people and orphaned children. Hong Menea

Prisoner reform and supporting the elderly through Buddhist teachings

Sitting on the floor with a white board propped up next to a statue of the Buddha, student Pen Sila leads the 10-minute chanting of the dharma and meditation with 12 classmates before lessons start.

“Chanting the Buddha’s dharma is beautiful and helps clear our mind. Since I have been studying here, I have learned to chant a few Buddhist lessons,” 18-year-old Sila says.

The centre that Sila comes to every weekday is Buddhism for Education of Cambodia (BEC), a Battambang-based organisation run by a Buddhist monk that aims to promote morality and wellbeing in its students.

The project works mainly with young people, prisoners, impoverished elderly people and orphaned children.

“Our main projects focus on promoting social morality via education in social and religious studies, as well as wellbeing via charity work,” said Hak Seang Hai, who founded BEC in July 2012.

Seang Hai believes monks have an important role to play in educating the general public on gratefulness and promoting social morality.

“If a monk offers advice – like to avoid mistresses, alcohol and gambling – it can be influential because monks model this behaviour both inside and out,” he said.

Seang Hai became a novice monk in 1996 in Kampong Thom province at the age of 11. In 1999, he left for Battambang province to study at a Buddhist school, before spending many years abroad travelling and studying Buddhism.

“In 2006, I won a scholarship to study for a bachelor’s degree in Myanmar for three years. Then in 2010, a Buddhist institute based in the US was seeking educated monks to study there. I then also won a scholarship to study in Sri Lanka for my Master’s degree in Buddhism. It was only in 2012 that I came back home and decided to run an NGO,” he said.

Watch:

Located in a modest home on a hectare of land featuring beautiful gardens, a library, three open-air classrooms and a makeshift radio broadcasting studio, BEC currently runs five community programmes.

“We have five long-term programmes; youth education, prisoner education, Buddhist dharma broadcasting, help for the elderly and poor, and supporting orphans,” said 34-year-old Seang Hai, a monk at Wat Kampheng pagoda.

BEC works with two state-run schools – Wat Kampheng Primary School and Wat Kor Secondary School in Battambang town – where volunteer Buddhist monks teach morality, gratefulness, traditions and customs to children.

Seang Hai told The Post: “We conduct workshops around the country in both universities and high schools. We explain about gratefulness and offer advice on how to change negative behaviour.”

In addition to spiritual guidance, BEC distributes some 20,000 notebooks to impoverished children during workshops each year.

Also of note is BEC’s education programme with inmates in Battambang prison.

“Previously, we taught only male inmates in prison. But recently we’ve been allowed to provide Buddhist teachings to both male and female inmates,” he said.

Seang Hai said he has noticed a positive change in the behaviour of many inmates through Buddhist teachings like meditation and chanting dharma.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Seang Hai believes monks have a role to play in educating the public on gratefulness and promoting social morality. Hong Menea

“Overall they have made huge changes. People in charge at Battambang prison said they’ve seen changes in inmates’ behaviour, so now they allow us to teach both male and female inmates and have added more sessions,” he said.

“When they are released, they always come to see our volunteer monks to show respect and gratefulness for teaching them.”

BEC also offers English and Chinese language lessons, as well as Buddhist dharma in Khmer and English so all people may learn about Buddhism. It also operates a radio channel broadcasting Buddhist teachings everyday and a show on local TV from 5:30am to 6:00am each Saturday.

BEC also helps build homes for the elderly and offers them support by providing daily essentials.

“Some elderly people live alone or with their grandchildren, so we offer food and money monthly,” said the monk.

BEC is largely funded from individual Cambodians, both locally and those who live overseas. Each year BEC holds fundraising events in Phnom Penh and overseas to continue their programmes.

BEC is located in Wat Kor district’s Kampong Sema village, Battambang province on the road to Banan temple.

For more information, you can visit their Facebook page (@Bec.organization) or telephone them directly (017 446 263).

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (