Minister of Cults and Religion Chay Borin has issued a letter providing guidance on Cambodian religious practices, beliefs and traditions, following incidents of activities that he said have had a significant impact on Buddhism.
The September 25 letter underscored the substantial role of Buddhism in the country, highlighting its contributions to worship practices and the cultivation of moral values.
It emphasised that these aspects serve as the foundation for the preservation of Buddhism and the unification of Buddhists in the nation’s pursuit of prosperity and global peace.
“We have observed certain individuals engaging in activities and practices that have had a significant impact on Buddhism, security, social order, traditions, customs and Cambodian society,” he stated.
“These actions have also infringed upon individual rights, including religious beliefs, by promoting the use of violence, hostility, discrimination, pornography and falsehoods. Such conduct is not in alignment with Article 43 of the Constitution and prevailing legal documents,” he added.
The minister provided guidance and enforced restrictions, advising against arbitrary wearing of saffron garments and the theft of sacred objects, actions that he said disrespect religious principles.
Furthermore, he forbids the exploitation of Buddhism in any manner, including the teachings of the Buddha and the precepts, as well as the use of deception through purported “magical” practices.
“We refrain from using the Buddhist flag, statues or sacred objects to entice, deceive or mislead individuals for the benefit of groups or individuals that may jeopardise security, public order and society,” he added.
He also prohibits individuals from using the words of Buddha for comedic purposes, performing rap music or employing insults. Additionally, he offered guidance against the placement of Buddha images or Buddhist symbols on inappropriate objects for advertising and discouraged their use as decorative items in drinking establishments, bathrooms, toilets, underwear and shoes.
“Municipal and provincial religion departments and relevant authorities at all levels must collaborate to effectively implement these instructions and take stringent legal measures,” he said.
Venerable Khim Sorn, the chief monk of Phnom Penh, voiced his support.
“This instruction serves as a valuable warning, but stronger legal actions are necessary, as some individuals show no fear of committing transgressions. Therefore, if the laws are rigorously enforced and they are duly punished, it may instil a sense of apprehension, for the Buddha holds affection for those who uphold the precepts, discipline and engage in virtuous deeds,” he said.
He explained that certain individuals have impersonated monks to gather alms and engage in deceptive misconduct. Others, despite being stripped of their false robes multiple times, persist in repeating their transgressions.
He added that it is only when legal measures are uniformly applied to all that improvement can be expected.