The government will not ban the rock opera “Where Elephants Weep” and supports the show’s production team, but proposes that scenes or dialogue be modified to appease the monks who complained the musical was disrespectful to Buddhists, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Cabinet Minister Sok An presided over a meeting of officials from the ministries of Culture, Tourism, Information, and Cults and Religion, as well as the Royal Academy of Cambodia.
“That meeting is in favor of the performers of that story,” and choosing what to modify or rephrase will be up to the artists themselves, Phay Siphan said.
“The government has no intention or plan to cut parts of that show, but to make everyone happy,” he said, adding that the resolution from the meeting will be submitted to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval, and that the opera would be performed again soon in Siem Reap.
“Where Elephants Weep,” Cambodia’s first rock opera, shows monks dancing and singing, and a monk disrobe to be with the woman he loves.
The Supreme Sangha Council—a body of the chief Buddhist clerics of the dominant Mohanikaya sect—complained to the government that the play was offensive to Buddhists and asked that it be banned from TV and theaters.
The opera’s composer Him Sophy said the show’s team is willing to compromise and that part of the English-to-Khmer translation had been inaccurate and could be modified.
“I hope it’s not too much [modified],” he added.
The production team is now preparing for a meeting with Buddhist leaders scheduled for Sunday to explain the opera’s meaning and address their concerns, Him Sophy added. But modifications to dialogue and dress might not be enough to satisfy the monks.
“[If] they want to replay this story, why don’t they choose to wear tiger-print clothes or white clothes like old laypeople,” said Supreme Patriarch Non Nget.
Monks may only be represented as moral and educated, and recent bad behavior by a minority of monks should not overshadow 50,000 well-behaving monks, Venerable Sao Chanthol, high adviser to the council, said.