Tep Vong Accused of Favoritism, Going Against Buddha

Constitutional Council member Son Soubert issued a statement on Monday accusing Cambodia’s top Buddhist Patriarch Tep Vong of breaching the principles of Budd-hism by being biased toward the ruling CPP.

Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong responded Monday that he has seen the statement and is not bothered by the claims.

“I don’t have remorse for what I have done. I am not responding,” Tep Vong said.

Son Soubert, who is also chairman of the Samdech Son Sann Foundation, said in the statement that Tep Vong has told local media that the CPP is a “house owner” party and its rivals are merely “guest” parties.

Son Soubert said the categorization was similar to when the Khmer Rouge divided Cambo-dians into “old” and “new” people.

“[Tep Vong] is biased toward the CPP. He goes against the Buddha’s discipline in which Buddhist monks are not biased,” Son Soubert said by telephone, adding that he sent the letter directly to Tep Vong and media outlets.

Son Soubert also said Tep Vong failed to call for peace during the factional fighting of 1997, when forces loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen routed troops loyal to then-First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

“[In] July 1997, monks who were abroad had the courage to advise people and leaders to have peace marches. But we did not see the Supreme Patriarch march to seek peace,” he wrote.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kan-harith said Tep Vong is not a CPP supporter, although he is a firm believer in the Jan 7, 1979, overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

“[Tep Vong] has never led people to vote for the CPP,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding: “It is very insulting to compare monks with Pol Pot.”

Tep Vong was elected vice president of the 1981 National Assemb-ly of the People’s Republic of Kam-puchea, a precursor to the current CPP government. On Nov 29, he formally lifted his ban on monks voting in Cambodia’s elections, but urged the Buddhist clergy to remain grateful to the ruling CPP for “saving the country from the Khmer Rouge.”

SRP leader Sam Rainsy said that Tep Vong is clearly affiliated with the ruling party.

“Tep Vong is the CPP’s spokes-man for religious affairs,” Sam Rainsy claimed.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elec-tions, said Tep Vong is pro-CPP, and that if he wants to comment on politics, he should do so as a private individual and not in his capacity as the country’s top monk.

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