During Assembly Break, CNRP Lawmaker Becomes a Monk

Opposition lawmaker Keo Phirum was ordained as a monk in Phnom Penh’s Wat Kul Totoeng on Sunday morning, and plans to serve out parliament’s current monthlong recess by taking part only in monastic study, according to a lawmaker who attended the ceremony.

Mr. Phirum, a New Zealand citizen, was elected as a CNRP lawmaker for Kratie province in the 2013 national election but has long wanted to study as a monk, said fellow opposition lawmaker Son Chhay.

“He is very interested in entering the monkhood, but this is only for a one-month period during the National Assembly break,” he said.

Mr. Chhay said the ceremony at the pagoda on Phnom Penh’s border with Takhmao City in Kandal province was attended only by Mr. Phirum’s closest friends and family.

“Sometimes politicians use Buddhism and enter the monkhood to impress the public but this guy is serious; he’s not into that,” he said. “This is all about finding peace within himself so he can clear out all the rubbish from his mind.”

Yet Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Mr. Phirum was deserting his responsibilities as a lawmaker.

“The lawmakers representing the CNRP always abandon their responsibilities. The duty of a lawmaker is to go to their constituency and listen to their people but they abandon that and become a monk on vacation,” Mr. Siphan said.

“He is still being paid by the National Assembly this month and it is expected that he will serve his constituency as an active lawmaker.”

Mr. Phirum could not be reached for comment Sunday.

However, But Buntenh, head of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, said he approved of Mr. Phirum’s plan.

“It’s not wrong. If he becomes a monk, he will have a good culture in his mind to create fruitful laws,” he said.

“Someone in a high position like a lawmaker should look from different angles to learn the needs of society, and Cambodia is a Buddhist society,” he added. “If he wants to make laws for Buddhist people, it’s very good to stay in a pagoda.”

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