Buddhist Clergy Issue Statements Addressing Theft of Relics

A day after 200 monks besieged an annual conference of senior members of the Buddhist clergy to demand a statement over the theft of Buddha relics, the country’s two main Buddhist sects on Wednesday disseminated statements on the issue.

Entrances to the annual meeting at Chaktomuk Conference Hall, which ended its second and final day Wednesday, were blocked on Tuesday by monks demanding that Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong call on Prime Minister Hun Sen to act over the theft of the relics from Odong mountain.

The CPP-aligned Mohanikaya sect Wednesday distributed a statement signed by Supreme Patriarch Non Nget and Min Khin, the Minister of Cults and Religion, praising the government’s early actions in the case while requesting continued inquiries.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia has been very concerned and has taken timely action with the arrest of suspects, and this can prove that the continuation of investigations will be able to bring back the statuette and the relics of the Lord Buddha,” says the statement, which is dated December 16.

Another statement distributed by the Dhammayuttika sect, also dated December 16, and signed by Mr. Khin and Vong Aneta, director of the Dhammayuttika’s secretariat, makes a more urgent call for the government to find the relics. The Dhammayuttika clergy has historically had close ties to the monarchy.

“Please investigate to find and bring back the relics to enshrine them for the reverence…of Cambodian Buddhists and people of the world to provide cool shade, happiness and peace,” the statement says.

At the closing ceremony of the conference Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An told the assembled clergy that the government was already taking “urgent action” to find the relics.

Khim Sorn, the chief monk of Phnom Penh, who ended Tuesday’s standoff by promising that a statement would be issued, claimed Wednesday that the statements had already been widely distributed before Tuesday’s hourlong siege.

A summary statement issued after the conference, signed by Non Nget, called on the country’s monks to refrain from engaging in political demonstrations.

The statement says that while monks are “noble and devoted people,” it is the state’s responsibility to protect the longevity of the Buddhist religion.

“Therefore, monks should not engage in any improper activities such as joining demonstrations, strikes, riots or any activities that is contradictory to Buddhist rules and the nation’s laws,” the statement says.

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