In response to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call for monks to help impoverished drought victims, Phnom Penh monks appealed to Hun Sen to instead ask corrupt government officials and police for donations.
Hun Sen inverted traditional charity relationships on Dec 2 by calling for monks from Cambodia’s 4,000 pagodas to give donations rather than receive them. He said some monks are rich and that, especially after festivals, they have excess funds with which they build more pagodas or do nothing at all.
Hun Sen added that officials had been restricted to 25 free liters of gasoline per month, about half of their usual consumption, in the interests of fueling water pumps to irrigate fields in drought-ravaged areas.
But numerous monks at Wat Botum on Thursday said Hun Sen’s comments were misleading. Monks Sam Sy Vuthy and Kong Bun Thon, both 25, said government officials have much more money than monks and should be the ones to donate to the relief effort.
Other monks had stronger words. “If [Hun Sen] makes statements like that, I reply to him, please reduce corruption in the government and his party,” said Sun Sophal, 26. “I have never heard of a prime minister asking for donations from monks..”
“Government officials are so corrupt, and they are feeding young, fresh girls,” Sun Sophal said.
He added that although some top monks have enough money to help, most monks are poor because they do not work conventional jobs.
“I believe that government officials have put billions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts,” said Ven Noeun, 29, a third-year student at Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University.
“The government has the money to help the poor if it manages its budget well,” he said. “When the country faces problems like this, then the money can be used.”