Many Kompong Speu, Kandal Monks Obey Order Not to Vote

Monks in Kompong Speu and Kandal provinces said Sunday that many of them reluctantly obeyed the orders of Mohanikaya Buddhist sect Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong and stayed away from the polling stations.

“We really want to vote…but this is the order from the patriarch, and we must obey,” said Makk Sokhan, chief monk of Kandal’s Wat Russei Chroy.

In 2002, Tep Vong, who is affiliated with the CPP, ruled that Cambodian Buddhism and voting were incompatible, a decision that upset human rights groups and was opposed by both King Norodom Sihanouk and Min­ister of Cults and Religion Chea Savoeun.

Were they all allowed to vote, Cambodia’s 55,755 Buddhist monks could potentially have had a great influence on election results.

“I think most of the monks here do not support the ruling party,” one monk who did not vote said on condition of anonymity. “We want to change our leaders.”

The Venerable Say Amnan, a local university lecturer, criticized the legal and constitutional legitimacy of Tep Vong’s ruling, and ac­cused him of being biased toward the CPP.

“[The ruling] violates the Constitution and the national election law, which are all passed by the [National] Assembly,” he said at a temple in Kompong Speu Sunday.

Monks were banned from voting because the authorities knew they do not support the ruling party, Say Amnan said.

“[Tep Vong] is not neutral at all,” Say Amnan said. “I have encouraged monks to vote, but [Tep Vong’s] announcement makes them afraid.”

He acknowledged that the CPP had built Buddhist temples for the Buddhist community, but said that monks oppose this because the temples were paid for with “corrupt” money made from the exploitation of Cam­bodia’s forests and other natural resources.

Many monks live in the countryside and are isolated from information about voting, Say Amnan said.

“What will happen to the future of our country if we are not allowed to vote?” he asked. “We would like to share our responsibility.”

Tep Vong said Sunday that voting is not a “serious sin,” though he did not retract the ruling. “It’s like when they go into the market,” he said. “It’s not serious enough to defrock them.”

Monks are still legally entitled to vote, and many in Phnom Penh did so Sunday despite the ruling.

Chev Chhan, 22, a monk at Wat Prek Russei in Kandal’s Takhmau district, said religion and politics can mix.

“I always pray to have a leader that loves people and respects democracy,” he said. “The current government doesn’t respect democracy.”

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)


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