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Monk conference ends

Monks gather in a Phnom Penh conference hall on Tuesday for the 24th congress of Buddhist monks.
Monks gather in a Phnom Penh conference hall on Tuesday for the 24th congress of Buddhist monks. Heng Chivoan

Monk conference ends

The closing statement of a two-day monastic conference made only vague reference to the protection of children, despite calls from campaigners for the gathering to directly address the problem of sexual abuse against children living in pagodas.

In a six-point statement released yesterday afternoon, senior officials at the 24th congress of Buddhist monks said “the nationwide monkhood needs to integrate education to prevent all kinds of violence and ensure compliance with Buddhist rules and the educational goals of scholars, parents and the guardians of children”.

The statement also called on the Ministry of Cults and Religion to facilitate communication between the ministry and children’s centres in pagodas “in cases where an incident takes place”, although the nature of any incident authorities had in mind was not specified.

The seemingly tentative approach to a problem that has recently made headlines, including the rape of nine boys at a Siem Reap pagoda, drew criticism from the head of a national monastic organisation.

“Monk officials should not be silent on this issue but should tackle it urgently,” said Independent Monk Network founder Venerable But Buntenh.

“With men and children living in the same complex, we currently don’t have rules and regulations, and that is why this problem happens.”

Additional reporting by Mech Dara and Lay Samean

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