Lawmakers Debate Letting Monks Fight HIV

Fearing Cambodia’s monks will “loose their spiritual purity,” two conservative parliamentarians objected Wednesday to legislation that would involve Bud­dhist monks in an HIV/AIDS train­ing program.

Their objections, however, were not supported by other National Assembly lawmakers. Many said it was not against Bud­dhist teachings because the education is for the well-being and health of all Cambodians.

Only two out of the 92 lawmakers  present objected to the legislation, which would allow monks to take part in the dissemination of HIV/AIDS awareness programs.

About 90 percent of all Cambo­di­ans are Buddhist.

Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Nor­o­dom Vacheara suggested that the “highly respected” monks should not be exposed to “sex education and matters rela­ted to passion.” Though she ob­jected to this part of the legislation, she voted in favor of it.

“I don’t agree with any idea that involves monks in AIDS issues because they will loose spiritual purity,” the princess said. “The monk represents Buddha who was free of all sexual passions and greed.”

She did say that it was acceptable if monks give moral support to those infected with HIV/AIDS, by visiting hospitals or blessing patients.

Another Funcinpec lawmaker agreed with the princess’ re­marks. Sam Raingsek ab­stained from voting on the issue, saying it goes against Khmer traditions to involve monks in sex education. He said he would only go along with the law if monks and nuns also went along with it.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said “it is never wrong when monks are educated about health care and social issues.”

Another Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, Hong Sok Heang, praised the monks in Thailand for their contribution to the prevention of the disease. “In Thailand,” he said, “the AIDS patients are allowed to stay in pagodas with monks who feed them” and take care of them.

“The monks here should look to the monks in Thailand as a model,” said Hong Sok Heang.

Mom Chhim Huy, a CPP lawmaker and chairman of the assembly’s religion commission said monks “should not get involved too specifically and technically in sex [education] or the use of condoms while teaching people about these issues.”

On Tuesday, 14 female parliamentarians objected to a portion of the legislation that singles out women for special education on AIDS prevention, according to The Associated Press. The lawmakers said it was promiscuous  men who needed more information about the disease.


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