Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Buddhist monks disrobed to 'survive' Khmer Rouge

Buddhist monks disrobed to 'survive' Khmer Rouge

Buddhist monks disrobed to 'survive' Khmer Rouge

On orders of the “Angkar”, shortly before April 17, 1975, Khiev Neou, a monk of more than 20 years, was marched out of his pagoda and disrobed, he told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Khiev Neou told the court that at the time he was 42 years old and that years of war in Cambodia had taught him to be “careful” and do whatever he was told.

“[I had] gone through various stages of war. We had been told that we should keep silent on others’ matters and just mind our own business and that was not the only occasion, that had been the instruction and practice from a long, long time ago,” he said.

“When we were ordered to disrobe, we just did that so we could survive; we did not think much of the rest,” he said, later adding that he continued to practise his religion in secret throughout the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Senior assistant co-prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak asked the witness why he continued to practise Buddhism in “secret”.

“Because Buddhism is the best religion,” Khiev Neou replied.

Abdulhak attempted to clarify his question about practising religion in secrecy. The indictment against the three elderly co-accused states that “All religion was prohibited by the [Khmer Rouge] including Buddhism pagodas were destroyed, virtually all Buddhist monks and nuns were disrobed, and some monks were threatened with death or killed if they did not comply”.

Khiev Neou responded that it would have been useless for people to go to pagodas because there were no monks.

“What would be the point? They would just go to see an empty pagoda,” he said.

Khiev Neou spoke of friendly ideological spats between himself and his neighbour, deceased Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok, before the revolution.

“I tried to convince him based on Buddhism, and he tried to convince me based on his doctrine. We were adamant, we were not easily covinced,” the former monk said.

“However later, when he had more power, I was convinced. But my background in Budddhism would never be convinced – I am still superior to him in terms of this.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman