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More laymen needed for traditional ceremonies: PM

More laymen needed for traditional ceremonies: PM

090724_05
A layman lights candles in preparation for a ceremony at Wat Lanka.

Hectic schedule of weddings, funerals is taxing Cambodia's achar.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that the Ministry of Cults and Religions and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts should cooperate to address the shortage of Buddhist laymen by improving training and recruiting practices, particularly given the abundance of weddings and other ceremonies that take place throughout the Kingdom each year.

"Nowadays, the shortage of laymen [in Cambodia] is a serious crisis," Hun Sen said during his closing remarks at a workshop on Cambodian culture Wednesday.

Buddhist laymen, known in Khmer as achar, are responsible for presiding over and administering blessings at traditional ceremonies, including weddings and funerals.

In his speech, Hun Sen estimated that there are at least 5,000 wedding celebrations around the country each year.

Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin said Thursday that the ministry conducted meetings with monks and layman committees to research the problem after Hun Sen first mentioned the layman shortage in May.

He said a workshop on the issue was scheduled for August.

To solve the problem, Min Khin said officials needed to establish national standards for the training of laymen and to distribute educational materials throughout the country.

Also Wednesday, Hun Sen criticised the practice of cake-cutting at wedding celebrations, a practice he said was more appropriate for foreigners than for Cambodians.

Regional rail plans
In the same address, Hun Sen called on ASEAN member states to contribute financial support to the Cambodian stretches of the projected ASEAN railway project.

"Other countries say it is an ASEAN railway ... why should it be only Cambodia who pays for it?" he asked.

"It is true the railway will be built on Khmer territory, but it will benefit all ASEAN nations, so they should pay to help build it," he said.

Much of Cambodia's rail system is in disrepair, so renovations could prove expensive.

Hun Sen said he would need to consider the costs of any proposed railway project before approving it, adding that it should be profitable in the long term.

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