Sok An To Hold Meeting on Rock Opera Dispute Dispute

Cabinet Minister Sok An will hold a meeting with his officials this morning to find a solution to the dispute between the production team of the rock opera “Where Elephants Weep” and Buddhist monks who say the show is disrespectful to them, Council of Min­ister spoke­sman Phay Siphan said Monday.

“Where Elephants Weep,” Cam­b­odia’s first Broadway-style production, depicts monks singing and dancing and tells the story of a young man who leaves the monkhood against his abbot’s advice to be with the woman he loves. He eventually separates from the woman and returns to the monkhood.

The opera was broadcast on CTN on Dec 25, but a second airing on New Year’s Day was cancelled after the Supreme Sangha Council—a body of the chief Buddhist clerics of the dominant Mohanikaya sect—sent a letter of complaint to the government.

Phay Siphan said solutions could include cutting the offending parts of the opera from broadcast, but officials are seeking a “middle way” so that the musical can be aired on Cambodian television stations again.

“I think what has happened so far resulted from misunderstandings from both sides…. So this meeting will discuss what should be cut out or kept in the performance,” he added.

Sok An, who delivered a speech at the rock opera’s premiere in December in Phnom Penh, will meet today with officials from the ministries of Culture, Information, and Religion, as well as experts from the Royal Academy of Cam­bodia, Phay Siphan said.

In the meantime, Sok An has called Mohanikaya Supreme Pa­triarch Nun Nget to request that monks stop airing grievances through the media until officials, monks and artists discuss the issue, said Venerable Khem Son, high adviser on the Supreme Sangha Council. That meeting is scheduled for Jan 11, he added.

Nun Nget, however, persisted in his criticism on Monday.

“If they want the monks to stop talking about that, they have to stop using monks’ robes [in the show],” Nun Nget said by telephone.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern over the cancellation of the opera.

“It is real-life misdemeanors by Buddhist monks—not fictional love stories—which undermine Buddh­ism,” the center said in a statement.


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