18 December 2008
In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, made the following selected comments in relation to the development in religious affairs in general, and in Buddhism in particular.
… It is impossible to say that when the secular world is in disastrous state, the religion is in its prosperity at all. Any progress in the Buddhist or religious affairs should be considered as the measurement of development in the secular world. You may all analyze the fact that our country has passed a period of 38 years after the coup on March 18, 1970, the time at which the secular world came to war, and then the genocide. We all remember that the whole country, religion or secular world used to be in the state of misfortunate. The Buddhist monks in that instance were not residing in a different world from the secular, whereas the Buddhist parishioners in poverty and hardships were impossible to provide shelters in the pagodas or to offer food because they also were in starvation.
… Henceforth, I have great pride to see the fruit of hard work in leading a change of mind in the society, as the society is full of ill-mind people more sins would be committed. Buddhism has proven to share with the Royal Government and the administration of all levels its greatest help in educating people - men and women, young and old alike - to observe and perform merit. We may not be able to count in other religions here, but for Buddhism, at the time of Prochum Ben Days (the period of fifteen days when people offers food and cloths to the Buddhist monks believing this will give their ancestors the same merits, which is ritually performed once a year in Cambodia, from day one, it is remarkable to see people going to pagodas at dawn to share their offerings. So exercising merit is important, from person to family, to village and the whole country, the benefit from religion in merit making is very helpful. No religion in this world teaches human to commit sin.
… As in the case of Cambodia, Buddhism does a great job that helps the State to manage the society. It has been very beneficial especially as we are in the stage of strengthening the culture of peace. In my capacity as the one who initiated and implemented the win-win policy that led to the ending of war, what I have learned is that the achievement of its historic end cannot bypass the role of Buddhism as we could see that, among other aspirations, all Khmer factions are following Buddhism or sharing common religious values. As for some countries it may have been difficult because they were of different religious beliefs.
… It has been their sinful acts that the Khmer Rouge soldiers destroyed pagodas and broke Buddhist statues to pieces but they had acted under commanders' instruction. Some soldiers, in fulfilling such insane act against the religious statues, murmured at heart that they had done out of fear for lives to be taken for disrespecting order.
… I also have noticed another good thing from Buddhism that every year the Buddhist monks, who have been offered utensils and food more than they need, have turned them to poor people living nearby the pagodas, which is another point taken as helping the Royal Government in assuaging people's hunger …
They sometimes share their offerings with the Cambodian Red Cross and through the latter those stuffs are being given to the needy people … I am so happy to see that they have brought for soldiers who are at the frontline which definitely makes our soldiers enjoy the support from the rear.
… I agree and fully support the proposition by Samdech the Buddhist Patriarch for the establishment of hostels for poor students. With at least ten students could be accommodated in one pagoda, we could deal with a reasonably big number since we have up to 4000 pagodas… However, with so many developments as stated, Cambodia is facing with more challenges and concerns. Before going into this at a deeper depth I would like to remind you all that there has not been a single country in this world that is without prison. Why? People are making mistakes, acting against the state law and the teachings of religions. At the moment people committed offense over the state law, simultaneously and automatically they committed sin in the sphere of religion.
… At the time of struggle in between 1977 to 1978, no one was in my superior on the eastern side of the Mekong River. It was before I met with Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Heng Samrin. I thought the country could be saved within three to five years. It was my prediction that I have to establish control on the eastern side of the country before stepping into the western side. However, what I wish to say is that the whole country was without monks and only Samdech Bou Kry could get out o the country. If we were one year late, under Pol Pot's rule, probably all of our monks here disappeared already - if not because of killings, starving would be a cause. That is why I always respond to some ill-intent people who say that the country has gone poorer that the poorest moment of Cambodia was in 1979.
… No one could perform any rituals as we did not have monks yet. The only one monk at that time was Samdech Patriarch Tep Vong. He became monk in April at the time of the Cambodian New Year in 1979… But we have more monks now. A few days ago someone sent a live picture of Buddhist monks who dance. This is not in conformity with the Buddhist teachings. However, this is not the general situation too. Only a few have committed such sinful and disrespectful acts. It is important to get things done in order to improve image of Buddhism in the country.
I would recommend you to go back and check the terms of reference and job delegation as to how and who would do what. I have approved them for you … and before going about instructing others you have to mend the upper level of leadership or you cannot tell people under your leadership to do otherwise.
… Because of the fact that we have more than 50,000 Buddhist monks and about 4000 pagodas, should we think of decentralization of power or not, I suggest the Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs to cooperate with the Buddhist leadership to work out a solution… I recommend we have a structure that will take care of the Buddhist development or we might have problem of uncontrolled development and any conflict would result in disastrous actions and settlement would be difficult. I would also take this time to assure that the Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs has the responsibility to look into matters that are relating to not only Buddhism but to all religions…
Should the Buddhist Assembly, which is tasked to observe the Buddhist teachings and disciplines, be decentralized to the provincial and district levels … so that the Buddhist Patriarchs are assisted by mechanisms in performing monitoring work? I would apologize too as this is not to order our Patriarchs what to do but only to express concern from the legal aspect.
… The issue of denying reality and truth is the most dangerous. Denying them would also bring down Buddhism and no one could be held accountable. It is like in the case of the political party, where people would not vote for you if they know you would not be up to their respect. Some people deny the truth about January 7, even though they were saved by January 7 itself. People say if they were saved by January 7 but deny its truth, how could they recognize anything else? No vote for them...■