The Ministry of Cult and Religions has warned Buddhist monks and nuns to refrain from begging in the streets of Phnom Penh and provincial towns and villages during next month’s Kathen ceremonies, the monthlong festival when Cambodians make offerings to their local pagodas.
Ministry officials made the announcement ahead of the festival, which begins Saturday. In recent years, the festival has attracted rural monks, nuns and laymen who travel to the city and towns seeking to raise funds for pagodas in poorer areas.
The period has also been marked by an increase in people masquerading as monks in an attempt to acquire donations from unsuspecting citizens, Minister of Cult and Religions Chea Savoeun said Wednesday.
“We have prohibited them from asking for money from people on the streets and in houses,” Chea Savoeun said by telephone. “The opportunists and the bogus monks ask the people for money to build the pagodas, but then they put it in their own pockets.”
Police and other authorities will enforce the ban during the festival, said Chea Savoeun. He said that monks can still ask for donations inside the confines of their own pagodas.
“We have asked authorities at all levels to crack down on these actions in order to strengthen and prevent people from looking down on Buddhism,” Chea Savoeun said.
Srey Kanoeurn, director of the Kompong Cham provincial Cults and Religion department, said Wednesday that pressure has increased in provincial areas to find funds to build pagodas. Monks in different areas are challenging one another to complete their temples first, he said.
“Laymen praise the monks who build a lot of infrastructure inside the pagoda, so the challenges have encouraged monks to go to the city to beg for money,” he said.
“Before pagodas developed according to local community improvement, but right now there are big pagodas located in poor communities.”
He added: “Monks [must] not move to the city to ask for money. Some of them use the megaphone loudly and it can disturb the people. This action is very cheap.”