In a meeting with the sister of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that he approved of Lee Yun-jin’s request to open an unspecified number of Christian schools in Cambodia, according to an assistant to the premier.
“She told the Prime Minister that her commission in Cambodia was to teach Christianity. At the same time she told the Prime Minister about her desire to open [Christian] schools,” said Eang Sophalleth, assistant to Mr Hun Sen.
Mr Sophalleth added that the Prime Minister welcomed the idea, though he could not provide details on how many schools would be opened or what age group they would target.
“In response, the Prime Minister welcomed her and said that Cambodia has not banned any religion, though it does regard Buddhism as the state religion,” Mr Sophalleth added. The South Korean embassy could not be reached for comment.
Deputy chief of the General Inspectorate for National Buddhist Education, Sao Chanthol, said yesterday that teaching Christianity would not interfere with the national religion.
“It does not affect our society as long as those [schools teach] respect for the law, constitution and each other,” he said. But, Mr Chanthol added, “don’t forget yourselves as Cambodians.”
In recent years, overly zealous Christian evangelists have provoked reactions from the government who have placed restraints on how far they can go in their attempts to convert Cambodians. In 2007, the Ministry of Cult and Religions banned the distribution of religious literature outside religious institutions and prohibited Christian proselytizing.
“I am 100 percent concerned that if they [entice people to convert], it will affect Buddhism,” Ministry of Cult and Religions Secretary of State Sun Kim Hun at the time.
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)