PM Tells Monks To Behave, Says Reforms Are Needed

In a speech given Thursday during the second day of an annual religious congress in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on monks to cease arguing among themselves and to avoid inappropriate behavior.

Hun Sen did not address the re­cent scandals involving monks, including serious crimes, but he said that reforms in the monkhood needed to be made and that nothing will change if the monks don’t stop fighting each other.

“I am the most afraid when the monks are fighting each other that I can’t solve their problems,” Hun Sen said, but did not elaborate.

The prime minister also called on monks to stop drinking alcohol and dancing, recounting a video clip one of his daughters received on her phone via Bluetooth.

“My daughter received by Bluetooth [a video] of the monks dancing,” he said with a laugh. He added that such inappropriate actions were committed by individual monks and were not representative of all monks.

Turning to the country’s three top religious leaders—Tep Vong, great supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect, Nun Nget, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya sect, and Bou Kry, supreme patriarch of the Dham­mayut Buddhist sect—the prime minister wagged his finger in their direction.

“If the monks created many problems and the monks are fighting each other, it is very hard for me to solve their problem,” he said. “If I can escape from them, I escape.” But he added: “It is harder than when I escaped from artillery shells in the war.”

Nun Nget claimed by telephone later Thursday that there was no infighting among the country’s Buddhist clergy.

“The monks do not argue,” he said, adding that that the prime minister was speaking in generalities.

“If the monks are fighting, it means the country is bad,” he added.

At the conference Wednesday, Minister of Cults and Religion Min Khin said that religious authorities needed to improve dis­cipline in the monkhood and improve the moral and spiritual education of young monks in a bid to prevent further scandals tarnishing the image of Cam­bodian Buddhism.

Young monks in recent months have been arrested in high-profile rape and murder cases, including the alleged rape of a female British tourist in Battambang pro­vince recently, and the slaying of two traveling salesmen in Kom­pong Cham province who had their throats cut and their motorcycles stolen.

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