Funcinpec lawmaker Nan Sy called upon Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect Wednesday to reconsider his decision to prohibit temples from being used for election purposes and demanded that the religious leader grant monks the right to vote.
“Temples are the people’s property. People have the right to vote in pagodas,” Nan Sy said Wednesday after learning that Tep Vong had prohibited the National Election Committee from utilizing temples for voter registration, polling and vote counting.
“Tep Vong is not neutral. He supports a powerful political party,” Nan Sy claimed. “Tep Vong is interfering strongly with politics.”
Nan Sy said Tep Vong already had made a political statement by denying monks the right to vote, a privilege granted to them by the Constitution.
Tep Vong was not available for comment Thursday.
Tep Vong and Dhammayut Supreme Patriarch Bou Kry signed a declaration in June urging monks not to vote.
They said, however, that they would not prohibit monks from the polls.
Nan Sy added that if Tep Vong continued to interfere with the elections, Cambodian Buddhism would collapse since monks would rebel against their leader.
“Monks are human, so they need to select a leader that they love. If the new leader is not good and contrasts with the monks’ will, what will happen? I don’t want to say,” Nan Sy said.
Nan Sy called on Tep Vong and the Ministry of Cults and Religion to reconsider the NEC’s proposal because “the NEC does serve the people,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang agreed NEC has the right to use pagodas as polling stations. He said pagodas are inherently neutral since no political party can lay claim to them.
Eng Chhay Eang added that Tep Vong should reconsider his recommendation that monks not vote.
“Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong should not ban monks from voting,” Eng Chhay Eang said. “Monks are human, they have the right to vote.
“I don’t want to accuse Tep Vong of supporting a political party,” he added, “but I suggest that his activities are illegal. If Tep Vong still interferes [with the Constitution], it means he’s against the law.”
Some monks also are calling for Tep Vong to reconsider his decision. Oan Neang, a 31-year-old monk at Wat Saravoan, said he wants the option of choosing the country’s new leaders.
“I want to vote to select my leader. Although I’m a monk, I have the right to vote,” he said.
Oan Neang said he thought the NEC’s proposal was reasonable because pagodas are accessible to all voters.
He appealed to other monks to voice their concerns over the voting issue.
“If the Supreme Patriarch still bans us [from voting], I would call for other monks to make a demonstration for our right to vote,” he said.
Y Nimol, a 23-year-old monk at Wat Langka, complained that his inability to vote was unlawful.
“Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong is unjust. I think he’s not a good leader of the religious sector,” Y Nimol said.
NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said Thursday that monks at Wat Langka prevented commune clerks from posting voting lists inside the temple. Clerks ultimately posted the lists outside.
Leng Sochea said he thought Tep Vong’s motion was not politically motivated but stemmed from Buddha’s instruction to remain neutral.