Let me first of all express my sincere appreciation and respect to our elderly people and compatriots who are present here. Today I am so glad that I have a good chance to return to the Pagoda of Jan Borei Vong once again for two major events here – firstly, the 59th birthday anniversary of Samdech Preah Vannaroth (title) Nay Jroek, the third rank head monk (of Cambodia) and secondly, the inauguration of achievements in the pagoda of Jan Borei Vong, whose location has now been separated from the district of Punnhea Loeu of Kandal to be a part of Phnom Penh’s Khan Sen Sok.
I came to this pagoda once in 2001 so as to celebrate the Supreme Patriarch’s birthday and today we do the same for Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek. Let me also take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation and joy to have noticed so many changes because of so many achievements in between the two visits.
The Governor of Phnom Penh has made a report which really reflects the truth of how we go about commencing construction of all pagodas after they were ruined to nil throughout the country by the regime of Pol Pot. Under the said regime there were no pagoda, no monks and no (obvious) religious followers too. However, after the liberation of January 7, 1979, and up to the present, there are now over 4,000 Buddhist pagodas with over 60,000 monks.
To say in particular, the Buddhist pagoda of Jan Borei Vong, which is 147 years old if we dated it from the year 1863, has made recently positive changes for many new achievements. It is worth recalling the many stages of history of the country that the pagoda has evolved. The most destructive and ill-fated times were between 1970 and 1975, and again between 1975 through to 1979.
Beside witnessing progresses and achievements scored in the pagoda, I would also like to share with all of our people today my sincere appreciation of activities conducted personally by Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek in his capacity as the head monk of the pagoda of Jan Borei Vong and also as Deputy Head Monk of the district of Punnhea Loeu too. As this part of Kandal province is now a part of Phnom Penh, I would suggest for a consideration of promoting him (Nay Jroek) to be Deputy Chief Monk for Phnom Penh, second after Samdech Non Nget (currently Chief Monk of Phnom Penh).
I think that will be a win-win situation and I am sure that Samdech the Supreme Patriarch would not object to this suggestion. Well, we have made Buddhism the state religion in our Constitution, so it is the state duty to follow up closely whatever issues that are concerning its development. As there has been already what we call the Monkhood Assembly, with defined roles and functions that Samdech the Supreme Patriarch and I, in my capacity as the Prime Minister, have to give side-by-side signatures (on related administrative matters), I think it will be in our best interest that we all follow the agreed-upon rule.
Having said about this, I would also suggest a speedy administrative procedure for promoting monks to various positions. Normally, Samdech the Supreme Patriarch and I will have to countersign on the proposed letter of appointment. After the letter has been signed and stamped from my side, what I am asking for is that, may Samdech the Supreme Patriarch also give his signature in due course. Maybe we can set a timeframe in which if a letter has been proposed and signed by one side, but has been left without reply by the countersign party, the letter should be accepted to be legitimate. By this way the state affairs would not get stuck for lengthy period of time.
In some countries, they have applied this method. It has been determined that as long as the Prime Minister makes a proposition to either HM the King or the President, take for instance in the case of Great Britain, and if the proposition is not being approved in signature by the said party within legally defined timeframe, it is then regarded legitimately serviceable. I think it is best that all proposition and other administrative matters will be carried out in accordance with the stated rules. It is because Buddhism is the state religion and on behalf of the state, the Prime Minister countersigns to share responsibility with the Supreme Patriarch.
Let me say a few words about my past (in the pagoda). In fact Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek is like a senior brother to me. We lived together in the pagoda Toek La Ak (in Phnom Penh). The difference between us two is that he was in his monkhood and I was just a student who was not bound by any religious rules. Three of us who had lived and studied in the Pagoda of Toek La Ak are here present – firstly, (it is) me (Hun Sen) who has chosen political career and who now have a title of Samdech; secondly, (it is) Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek, who also has the Samdech as his title in the Buddhist hierarchy, and thirdly, (it is) Mong Rithy (Chairman of the Mong Rithy Group Co.), who has gone on with business in life. Another person also came from Toek La Ak pagoda with us is Uy Sun, who is now member of the District Council of Kandal Stoeung of Kandal province, but the district has now become a part of Phnom Penh.
I was so moved by actions of our Buddhist monks throughout the country in the time of flood in the year 2000. Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek was one of them in proving through action to show secular and Buddhist worlds are going hand and hand. People went to offer food and drink to the pagoda and monks while those food and drink were then returned to the most needy and victims of flood. Samdech Vannaroth Nay Jroek, in his boat full of offerings, went to see and give them to the flood victims.
You may note what I am saying that whenever the secular world is making progress and sustaining development, the people’s living condition is generally better. There will be not only good food at the pagoda but also more contributions for the construction of various Buddhist shrines. On the other hand, if the secular world experiences any setbacks whether war or natural calamity, which destabilizes people’s daily life and income, there will be less food and contribution to the Buddhist monks too. This is what everyone should see as correlation between the two worlds - secularism and Buddhism.
Take for instance, before 1970, under the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the Sangkum Reastniyum (Popular Socialist Community), within the then set technological development, Cambodia experienced marvelous development. After winning independence in 1953, thanks to the crusade of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia entered its historical phase of national construction and development between 1953 and 1970. Every Cambodian enjoyed the benefit from the development, myself was one of them. Though the number of schools in those days has not yet matched those of these days, I had the opportunity to get education, while it should be noted that many monks were trained at that time.
All those achievements had been possible thanks to the correct policy of the Sangkum Reastniyum that was formulated by and implemented under the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, who was then HM the King and later Head of State. However, because of incorrect leadership carried out by Lon Nol, Sarik Matak, Jeng Heng, In Tam, etc. in their coup against Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, a sad development in the secular world, (have you all noticed) what happened to the country? Not only were people suffering ill fate and destruction of livelihood (as consequences because of those individuals’ incorrect policy and leadership) Buddhism was also experiencing a severe setback. To say in short, the eventual political development brought about destructions on all three core institutions – nation, religion and king.
What happened then when Pol Pot came to power? Everything was finished. All of Buddhist monks were forced to disrobe, whereas pagodas and related facilities were destroyed and left in complete ruin. People’s right for belief was not only completely and absolutely denied, but anyone found to continue to follow faith in anyway would be seriously punished and sentenced to death. The whole country, both secular and Buddhist worlds, was brought to a mess – dreadful destruction and devastation.
After (the liberation in 1979) Buddhism, together with the people’s revival, has made a comeback. Despite the fact that monks were disrobed, no religious belief was allowed and no pagoda or shrine was open for expressing their respect and exercising religious practice to or with, our people in those days have nurtured inside them those values. Thanks to the correct policy of the National United Front for Salvation of Kampuchea (NUFSK) and the then Government that was called the People’s Revolutionary Council of Kampuchea (PRCK), and because there have been strong belief among the people, Buddhism has come back in no time in a strong manner.
It should be noted that there were two main sectors of society that had made great progresses in a speedy manner – religion and education. They sprung up without being organized or guided by anyone at all. As far as education is concerned, despite of the fact that schools and educational facilities were in a state of ruin, classes started under the trees, under tilted houses or even the monk’s residences. Those who have survived the disaster and had education took up the duty of teaching no matter if they would be paid or not for what they were doing.
It is because of such strong belief among the Cambodian people over the past 32 years Cambodia has made so much progress. In the year 2000, when we organized a ceremony to welcome the new millennium, some people came out and said that it is because our people believe and practice Buddhism the country is not making any progress. However, the reality has proven it otherwise. After 1979, and the trend has continued to the present, with constant supports of the former Government of the State of Cambodia, the current Royal Government of Cambodia that follows, HM the King, and people’s participation in their Buddhist practice, (religious and secular) developments have been proven a reality/fact.
In 1980, we had to provide an answer to a question, which could be one that was asked from those in opposition (to the people’s rebirth from the genocide), on how long the Government would allow people to go on with religious practices. Particularly, a question like, how much longer will Buddhsim exist in Cambodia? Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin and I have come to a unanimous and succinct response that ‘Buddhism exists as long as people believe in.’ It is a fact that if people no longer believe in Buddhism, there would be no this religion. Despite the Gautama Buddha suggests that Buddhism will sustain for only 5,000 years, but if people continue to believe, Buddhism will go on beyond that, and if people stop believing, the timeframe would not be reached.
Today we do not have the presence of Samdech Preah Adhiserei Sokuntheathibbadei Bou Kri. My wife and I have discussed and come to an agreement that after the birthday anniverary of Samdech Preah Vannaroth Nay Jroek we should celebrate similar ceremony for Samdech Preah Adhiserei Sokuntheathibdei as he is getting old and there has not been such a ceremony held for the Supreme Patriarch of the Dharmakaya yet. May HE Min Khin, Minister of Cult and Religious Affairs, seek for Samdech Preah Adhiserei Sokuntheathibdei’s permission for us to celebrate such a ceremony for him.
Having said so, I may inform you all that my children and children-in-law have unanimously concurred that in the Year of Dragon of 2012, which falls on the full moon day in August they will organize a birthday anniversary for me, in form of ‘Gratitude for Parents through Four Necessities.’ The anniversary will be celebrated on my original birthday, not the official one.
Please allow me to take this opportune moment to inform you all that tomorrow, December 13, I will leave the country with the Cambodian delegation for an official visit to (the People’s Republic of) China. My wife will not join me for this trip as she has to stay home for one of our daughters is expecting a baby, who would be our 11th grandchild, in the meantime. The visit will encompass, in addition to more than ten agreements that were signed during the visit of chairman of the Standing Committee of Chinese National People's Congress (HE Wu Bang Guo), the signing of 14 or even 15 agreements, and one of the agreements would be about exporting cassava and rice, and we are asking for inclusion of corn as well, from Cambodia to the big market of China.
In addition to some 300 km of roads, the signing agreements (in this visit) will also include the agreement for the constructions of one more bridge at Jroy Jangvar (a connection from Phnom Penh to national road 6A crossing the Tonle Sap River), one bridge at Takhmao town of Kandal crossing the Bassac River, a road that links national road 4 to Jumkiri of Kompot province, a water canal, and also a coal-powered electricity generation station in Sihanoukville province. My visit this time to the People’s Republic of China will be further strengthening friendly.