Religion Ministry Eliminates Thai Buddhas

Thousands of Thai-style Bud­dha statues will be collected from pagodas throughout Cambodia in an effort to prevent outside influences from distorting Khmer Buddhism, officials from the Min­istry of Cult and Religious Affairs said Thursday.

“We are worried for the future of our religion,” said Chao Si­kano, religion department chief in Ban­teay Meanchey province, adding that 410 Thai-style Buddha statues are in pagodas there.

If the problem is not addressed, “we will have a crisis for the next generation,” he said.

Thai Buddha statues have been banned in the country since 2002. However, some high-ranking Cambodian officials have ac­cepted donated statues from Thailand, Chao Sikano said.

While the statues have been given under the guise of good will, he said, they pose a serious threat to Khmer Buddhism.

“The Thais have a long-term strategy to invade our culture and religion,” he said, adding that Thai statues have portraits of the Thai king embedded inside them. “So if we Cambodians worship [the statues], it means we Cambodian people respect the Thai king too.”

Thai statues differ from Khmer Buddha images as they have longer noses, feminine hands with fingers of the same length and different body shapes. Thai script is written on the back of the statues.

The removals will concentrate on areas near the Thai border. The statues will be moved to a central storage location yet to be determined, said Uong Sophea­rith, deputy administrative chief of the Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs.

The ministry will collaborate with the Ministry of Interior, border soldiers and border police to enforce the ban, Uong Sophea­rith said.

Tep Vong, supreme patriarch of the Maharikaya Buddhist sect, on Thursday said monks worship all Buddha images. Of the collection and planned removal of the Thai-style statues he said: “It is not my work, it is up to both ministries,” referring to the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Cult and Religious Aff­airs.

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