The chief monk of a Phnom Penh pagoda has asked the city governor to remove ad banners hanging across the capital’s streets, especially those featuring alcohol, and issue additional ID cards to help differentiate real monks from fakes.
Ngin Khim, chief monk of Wat Neakavorn, said he expressed his frustration about religiously insensitive beer ads strung across city streets during an annual meeting on Tuesday of about 600 Buddhist leaders, monks and officials from the Cults and Religion Ministry, City Hall and the municipality’s cults and religion department.
“When they are put across the streets with people drinking alcohol on top, the king, monks and ministers walk under it,” said the deputy chief monk of Tuol Kok district on Thursday. “If we talk about culture and ethics, it is not appropriate.”
“They advertise with pictures of cars, advertise drinking alcohol, with young people on the banners,” Ngin Khim said.
He said Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said he would consider the request to place the offensive banners on the side of the street. Mr. Socheatvong could not be reached for comment, but Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said the municipality had already started removing street banners about a month ago.
“The request of the monks was similar to what we were already taking action on. We are not focused only on beer advertisements, but all kinds of advertisements hung across streets,” Mr. Measpheakdey said.
The monk chief said he also urged new photo ID cards, which monks could carry with them when soliciting donations, to differentiate them from those who don saffron robes in order to impersonate monks for personal gain.
“Some work as construction workers and when they are not given jobs, they get monk robes to become a monk and shave their head,” he said.
While monks already have religious ID cards, a new card could include the monk’s name, pagoda, pagoda chief’s name and telephone number, and would be specifically aimed at preventing imitators from soliciting donations under false pretenses, he said.
The governor supported the monks’ request, but said details needed to be discussed, Mr. Measpheakdey said.