First Deputy Patriarch, Wat Botum Pagoda, 76 years old
irst Deputy Patriarch
Wat Botum Pagoda, 76 years old
"IN MY GENERATION, life was very broad-ranging and free. We had open hearts,
but we were still too young to know many things. We just knew how to be happy, especially
when eight to ten years old.
"There were no motorcycles or TV then. The kind of vehicle my people used in
the 1930s was called 'klet', a type of wooden bicycle. And there were not many of
them to go around - in one commune, there was just one.
"There were not many people in my home town of Takeo when I was young and during
the French era, but during the Heng Samrin regime, the population began to grow and
grow. And during that regime, people in the countryside began to get TVs, bicycles,
and so on. But when I was 13 or 14, we had nothing like that.
"Some changes in Cambodia have been good, some have been bad. There has been
warfare, hardship and distress. Especially during the Pol Pot regime, of course.
As you know, culture and tradition were all demolished by Pol Pot. But some people
found the changes good after the Khmer Rouge regime when society was developed step-by-step.
"It seems to me that even since before the KR regime the Khmer politicians have
had the idea of making war, especially civil warfare. But the Khmers are naturally
very gentle - they have never invaded neighboring countries.
"The marvel of the Angkor era used to spread into Thailand Vietnam and Burma,
but then because Khmer people were too gentle some parts of the territory were captured
and some were lost.
"The Khmer people are generous but since I grew up, I have seen only fighting.
And when Khmers have quarrels or warfare, they always run to or rely on other countries,
like Thailand or Vietnam. And then foreign countries come to interfere.
"But there was no fighting during the fifteen years of leadership of King Sihanouk.
"I know nothing much about life, because I have been a monk since the age of
18, and at the time I didn't think that life was too hard. We just followed our rules
- until the KR regime. I was defrocked by the Khmer Rouge, but I did not complain
about their policy, because we just remember the Buddhist teachings to ourselves.
The life of children in the old generation was that they had no ambition, violence,
envy or anger. They only thought of good deeds. The life of children now is very
brutal. If we compare the generations, the life of children in the old generation
was better than in the present.
"People in the old generation were more honest. As I notice, now all kinds of
Khmer - blue, red, and white [political leanings] have come to help renunciation
of the country. But Khmer people still have ideas of anger against each other. Ambition
or violence and envy are present.
"During the old time, the children had simple lives, but now they have modern
things imported from other countries. But the culture is violent. Because the modern
materials cheat the spirit of the people, so they have lost their morality and their
culture - except the monks. The monks protect the Buddhist culture and morality,
because foreign culture flows into Cambodia. Children born in 1983 or 1984 know only
about modern materials. Debaucherous activities came into our society, and Khmer
children have been spoilt.
"But the most marvelous achievement of Cambodia over the last century was during
the old days, and came from King Sihanouk. He made the country peaceful for 17 years,
from 1953-1970. We had real peace then."