National Assembly president Heng Samrin said Cambodia respects freedom of religion, calling on all religious leaders to adhere to the principles of mutual understanding and respect for each other to maintain harmony, especially Buddhist leaders because it is the state religion.

Samrin made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 29th National Congress of Buddhist Monks at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh on December 20. He said Cambodia attaches great importance to religion and spirituality, which includes respect for the freedom of religion and all religious beliefs.

He noted that Cambodia promotes Buddhism as the state religion but supports the rights of people to observe other religions in the interests of societal unity and harmony.

He said the government makes efforts to build pagodas and other religious edifices to provide the Kingdom with physical centres for its spiritual life because religious observances are important activities towards contributing to the development of Cambodian society in terms of its culture, education and social morality.

“We still face some challenges caused by a lack of understanding about the use of modern technology. If we can gain clarity in our understanding of technology and we know how to take appropriate advantage of technology, it will benefit our religion and our society,” he said.

Samrin called on all Buddhist leaders to continue to adhere to its traditions of mutual understanding and respect for the established hierarchy in order to maintain unity and solidarity within the state religion.

He said that all Buddhist monks should continue to learn the Dharma and practice it correctly according to Buddha’s wisdom so that Cambodian soil remains fertile ground for the sacred practices of Buddhists to thrive.

“Whether our Buddhism is deeply rooted in these grounds and grows or withers and declines depends on all of us,” he said.

He encouraged Buddhist monks from the novices to the masters to discuss, share and exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences together to determine the strengths and weaknesses in Cambodian Buddhism and come up with a plan of action under a unified set of principles to present to the general assembly of the legislature.

Minister of Cults and Religions Chhit Sokhon said that after January 7, 1979, religion and spirituality in Cambodia was reborn and has made continual progress up to the present.

He said that all religions in Cambodia can exist together and be practiced in harmony by adhering to the principles of honesty, mutual respect, tolerance and mutual understanding in all circumstances.