The Supreme Sangha Council of Cambodia on Monday issued a statement denouncing a plan by the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) to research and draft a law on monkhood disciplines.
The council said monkhood does not fall under the RAC’s jurisdiction and dared its president to enter monkhood so he could act as a role model.
The Council’s statement came after RAC president Sok Touch announced the plan during a workshop on peace and Buddhism on October 19.
Touch suggested the RAC work with the Ministry of Cults and Religion to research and draft a law to enforce “monks ethics”. He said he had seen many cases of monks being too materialistic and violating ‘their code of ethics.
Cambodian Mohanikaya secretariat head, the venerable Khim Sorn, said in the statement that enforcing Buddhist disciplines is the jurisdiction of the Council and the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
“It is the authority of the Supreme Sangha Council and the Ministry of Cults and Religion [to enforce monks’ disciplines]. If the Royal Academy of Cambodia wants to promote Buddhism in Cambodia, it should work with the Council and the ministry.
“If the strict draft law [proposed by Touch] was passed, the Supreme Sangha Council would suggest Sok Touch enter monkhood himself and follow the strict code of ethics as a role model for other monks to follow,” the statement said, apparently mocking the RAC president for his remarks.
Chbar Ampov pagoda chief monk, the venerable Hor Sokhon, said Touch’s proposal is unreasonable and unfounded. He said the RAC president should have consulted senior monk officials before making such a public statement.
Venerable Sokhon said only a small number of monks fail to adhere to the existing code of ethics.
“His suggestion is wrong and cannot be accepted. Before raising the issue, he should discuss with senior monks who are knowledgeable and can find proper solutions,” Venerable Sokhon said.
Ministry of Cults and Religion spokesman Seng Somony said the ministry supported the Council’s position.
He said there are already more than enough Buddhist disciplines for monks to follow.
He echoed Venerable Sokhon’s position that only a small number of monks fail to abide by the rules.
“There are enough codes of ethics in Buddhism. We have existing rules that can be used to punish monks who violate Buddhist disciplines. There are 21,000 codes in the Buddhist Tripitaka scripture that amount to 21,000 articles in present-day laws,” he said.
Touch said he had seen the Council’s statement. He said the RAC will not conduct any research on the issue without the Council’s approval and participation of relevant parties.
“[The RAC] is a research institution. If the Council allows us, we will conduct research. If they want to meet me, I will meet and discuss with the head of the Supreme Sangha Council,” he said.
Touch said he is fully occupied with work and cannot enter monkhood as suggested by the Council.
“If they want me to become a monk, I can’t. I cannot join monkhood, because I have too much work to do,” Touch said.