Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged well-known former monk San Sochea, who recently left the monkhood, to continue to educate people on the Buddha’s doctrines and disciplines as those with knowledge of the dharma are necessary to maintain peace and prosperity.

The premier made the remark on June 14 while meeting with nearly 20,000 workers from nine factories in the Prey Speu area in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district.

“We also need people with knowledge of dharma who have left the monkhood to continue sharing mental health information and using dharma, which builds virtue among our people, as an essential part of peacekeeping and political stability,” said Hun Sen.

Sochea paid a courtesy call on Hun Sen at his residence in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, just outside the capital, on June 13.

Speaking in the Prey Speu area later that day during his meeting with workers, the prime minister said Sochea came to seek his general support.

Sochea left the monkhood on May 21. A day later, he released a song entitled “Asking mother for permission to leave monkhood”, which he wrote and sang himself.

The well-respected former monk spends his days as a layperson reuniting with family for dinner, shopping and attending social events. He said he has continued to discuss mental health education through the Buddha’s teaching although he is no longer a monk.

In a June 12 interview with Australia’s SBS Khmer, Sochea said that in addition to educating the mind on the Buddhist path, he would be creating online lesson packages.

“What I am planning to create is still related to the dharma principles, but utilising new technology and new methods that are different from those I used as a monk,” he said.

After meeting with the prime minister, Sochea took to social media saying that those who have already benefited from dharma that he had preached as a monk will not turn away because of his entry into secular life.

“They are not angry that I have left the monkhood. They are concerned with my wellbeing and are waiting to join in my dharma journey,” he said in reference to mixed reactions over his decision.

He stressed that living in society requires good relations, for dialogues can foster mutual respect.

“At the beginning of this year, I went to see Pope Francis, not because I had converted to his religion, but to increase the friendship between religious followers. I am still me, I still follow the path of the Buddha,” he said.