Minister Says Monks To Be Disciplined

Last year, Singapore IT services provider Robby Asianto was looking for a name for a company he was registering in Cambodia.

It had to be something catchy. Something that stuck in the mind. Something like, oh, say, Starbucks.

“I liked the name Starbucks. Ev­erybody’s heard of it. It’s easy to re­member,” Asianto said by telephone from Singapore on Tuesday.

“We were just thinking of starting something new. It has nothing to do with coffee.”

So in November 2007, he registered the name “Starbucks Limit­ed” with the Commerce Ministry to an address at the Parkway Square business center in Cham­kar Mon district.

Rather than tall mugs of coffee, Asianto said he hopes his Star­bucks will one day provide IT infrastructure solutions to clients in Cambodia, just like the company Eins Technology does in Sing­a­pore, where he is its managing director.

But his new Cambodian venture will likely do so under a name other than that of the global coffee confectioner Starbucks, which operates in 47 countries around the globe including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, he said.

A spate of arrests in recent months of monks involved in serious crimes, including rape and murder, has tarnished the image of the national religion and raised questions about the quality of in­struction in the country’s pagodas. At least 11 monks have also been defrocked this month at Phnom Penh and Kompong Chhnang province pagodas for more minor misdeeds including possessing pornography and drinking alcohol.

“We will strengthen our rules to make monks obey,” Min Khin told reporters following an address to the congress at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

The ministry plans to build additional schools of Buddhist teaching where good behavior will be taught, though he added that monks were, in the end, only human.

“It is common for some monks to be involved in sexual activity since they are also human beings. This sort of problem is a common occurrence,” said Min Khin, add­ing that some pagodas are plagued by problems arising from monks who jostle for positions of prominence.

“Monks can make mistakes just like lay people,” he added.

In a speech delivered at the meeting, CPP Senate President Chea Sim said facing the difficulties posed by the recent scandals in­volving monks was part of the de­velopment of post-Khmer Rouge religion.

“It is right for this meeting to point out this controversial problem and find a fair solution to solve it and improve religion in Cambodia,” he said.

“In 1979, after the Khmer Rouge ended, Cambodia’s religion had only seven monks. Now the number has increased to 55,583 monks at 4,307 pagodas,” Chea Sim said.

Nit Veasna, chief of the cults and religion department in Kompong Chhnang province, said Wednes­day that his office would follow this week’s congress with a local gathering of monks Dec 25 in order to drive the government’s point home.

Novices will now be tested on a Buddhist monk’s code of conduct after three months of study, he said.

“If they cannot pass the exam, then they cannot join [the monkhood]. They’ll have to retake the class,” Nit Veasna said.

“We have never done this [ex­am] before, which is why those bad monks never learned monastic discipline even after joining the monkhood,” he added.

Often new arrivals at pagodas are unruly young men forced to join by parents who did not know how to handle their children at home.

Among other lessons, monks must know that they cannot eat rice in the evening, must not tell lies, not speak ill of others and not drink alcohol, he said.

“If they don’t remember all the discipline in the book, they won’t be allowed to be monks,” he said, adding that the code of conduct will be enforced after Dec 25.

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