The 29th National Congress of Buddhist Monks held in Phnom Penh on December 20-21 issued a prakas on strengthening monastic discipline and forbidding certain acts, which include taking part in labour strikes and political protests.

The Ministry of Cults and Religion said in the prakas that Cambodian Buddhist monks have the right to freedom of expression under the Constitution but are not allowed to take part in anything that deviates from the principles of monastic discipline if they wish to remain in the monkhood.

“We must not take part in demonstrations, strikes or riots in public places that lead to the loss of our dignity and our monkhood by affecting security and public order.

“We are supposed to preach sermons according to the traditions and Buddhist discipline. We do not have to preach sermons that are funny or entertaining and deviate from the principles of the Dharma and the discipline,” the prakas said.

It added that monks and novices in Cambodia must follow traditions and possess morality and virtue by showing obedience to their elders and senior monks in the hierarchy at all levels.

If they fail to obey the advice and instructions of their elders and instead behave egocentrically, stubbornly, sarcastically or insultingly towards their betters, then they will be defrocked, the prakas warns.

Also stated in the prakas, Cambodia’s top monastic leaders – in collaboration with the religion ministry – would set up a committee on the three Buddhist canons to translate the scriptures from Pali into Khmer in order to better meet the needs of monks so that they can engage in a thorough, clear and in-depth study of Buddhist principles and precepts.

“The 29th National Congress of Buddhist Monks does not consider the private translations of the scriptures from foreign languages into Khmer as definitive or acceptable. Additionally, in order to develop more experts on the Pali and Sanskrit languages traditionally used in Buddhism, the Buddhist education school must discuss the best means to train such experts,” the prakas said.

National Assembly president Heng Samrin, who also address the monk’s congress, requested that all Buddhist followers strictly follow the teachings of Buddha whether they are monks or laypeople in order to promote Buddhism. He said the growth or decline of Buddhism was attributable to the acts of all Buddhist followers everywhere.