Buddhist Leader To Lift Ban on Monks Voting

Mohanikay Sect Supreme Bud­dhist Patriarch Tep Vong said Wed­nes­day that he would rescind his 2003 voting ban and allow Cam­bodia’s estimated 60,000 monks to vote in elections.

He said his decision followed statements encouraging universal participation in elections by the ruling CPP’s recently renamed and resurrected Solidarity Front for the De­vel­opment of Cambodia Moth­er­land.

“I am consulting other monk leaders to be able to retract the earlier ban,” Tep Vong said.

“Our monks are able to vote in future elections for the development of the nation,” he said.

Tep Vong said he discouraged monks from voting in the 2003 general election because elections seemed to always end in violence, but that recent stability had allowed him to annul the ban.

Tep Vong’s cabinet chief, Chho­eung Bun Chhea, said monks were given the right to vote again be­cause of the influence of other religions that allow clergy to vote.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay welcomed the decision, saying that the controversial restriction had denied monks a right guaranteed to all Cambodian citizens.

Committee for Free and Fair Elec­t­ions Director Koul Panha also wel­comed the news, but said Tep Vong’s edicts on voting might be mo­tivated by political affiliation.

In the 1980s, Tep Vong was dep­uty president of the National Assem­bly, which was controlled by an earlier incarnation of the CPP, and he was deputy chairman of the party’s United Front for Con­struction and Defense of Kam­pu­chea before entering the monkhood.

In a Wednesday press release, Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated Tep Vong for being awarded the most revered title of “Samdech Preah Akeah Moha Sang­ka­r­each­thippadei” by King Norodom Siha­moni on April 29.

Hun Sen also credited Tep Vong with the development of Cambo­dia’s Buddhist community since the civil war, including the construction of 4,000 pagodas and the ordination of 60,000 monks.

Tep Vong likened the awarding of his new title to the elation felt at the formation of the United Front for National Salvation of Kam­puchea, which was formed on Dec 2, 1978, and rallied Khmer support for the Vietnamese army that toppled the Pol Pot regime on Jan 7, 1979.


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