Cambodian leaders have paid tribute to Venerable Tep Vong, the Great Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia, who passed away at 5:40 pm on February 26 at the age of 93, after a long battle with unspecified illness.

He was chief monk of the Maha Nikaya sect, the largest Buddhist order in Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Manet sent a letter of condolence to the family of the late patriarch, saying that the loss of his life would be mourned by the nation and its people. 

“Throughout his life, he sacrificed so many things to enhance the prestige of the nation, religion and monarchy. From January 7, 1979, he worked tirelessly to promote Buddhism in Cambodia,” he wrote.

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen, now chairman of the Supreme Privy Council to the King, also described the passing of Tep Vong as a huge loss to the nation.

He recalled that Tep Vong was a farmer who joined the national salvation movement to liberate Cambodia from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, and then entered the monkhood to revive Buddhism in Cambodia. 

“His dedication and sacrifices to the nation, religion and monarchy were admirable. He also reformed the Cambodian [Supreme] Sangha Council,” he added.

Minister of Cults and Religions Chay Borin issued a directive on the night of February 26, announcing that Supreme Patriarch Non Nget will replace the late Tep Vong. Venerable Am Lim Heng, deputy head of the Supreme Sangha Council, will take over from Non Nget as acting chief of the council.

Tep Vong was born on January 12, 1932, in Chreav commune in Siem Reap province’s Prasat Bakong district. He first entered the monkhood at Wat Bo in Siem Reap province.

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, he became one of the first monks to be re-ordained, entering the monkhood for a second time on September 19, 1979 at Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh, where he resided until his passing.

His body has now been returned to Wat Ounalom for the traditional funeral rights.