Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism.
The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a ceremony attended by Buddhist Supreme Patriarch Non Nget, senior monks in the country and other high-ranking government officials.
Of the three chief monks, Chea Sam Ang from Kandal province was appointed Samdech Preah Odom Mony. Khim Sorn from Phnom Penh municipality was appointed Samdech Preah Buddha Chey Mony, and Roth Saroeun from the capital’s Sen Sok district was given the title Samdech Preah Sakya Mony.
Speaking at the ceremony, Hun Sen said the three had worked tirelessly for the national religion.
“Their performance has been observed and their efforts have been in the name of Buddhism. Their nomination as ‘samdech’ through a royal decree is fully justified,” he said.
The Ministry of Cult and Religion on Thursday released a report saying that the Kingdom had 4,925 pagodas and a total of 66,056 monks.
At the 26th National Congress of Buddhist Monks in December last year, Venerable Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong called on monks in the country to vote for Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, raising suspicions that the party was trying to politicise religion.
Bor Bet, a senior member with the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, which actively supports social work, said that “social culture has declined” in Cambodia, and called on monks to help educate the public.
“Monks need to be active in social education because morals are declining. Therefore, as a member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, I ask all monks to promote Buddhist values and educate people to participate in protecting natural resources, culture and traditions.”
However, he said monks who receive positions, such as the three who received new titles on Thursday, are close to the government, while monks who work hard to support society and issues such as forestry protection receive nothing.
“We have seen that in our society, only monks who are close to the government and support it receive positions and ranks, while those who support forestry protection, for example, never receive anything good, only punishments,” Bet said.