Cambodia: Decline of Monk Morality?

BY SOPHEAP CHAK
Jul 30, 2010

Violence, drunkenness, sex… It’s not just the Vatican, similar scandals are rocking the Buddhist world, too.

 

Monks are part of Cambodia's cultural and educational heritage.

Monks are part of Cambodia's cultural and educational heritage.

Photo credit: Adam Jones


Since Buddhism is a state religion guaranteed by the Constitution and nearly all Cambodians are Buddhists, the recent reported decline of monk morality in the country is a cause for concern.

On several occasions, monks have been found of engaging in violent behavior or misconduct including having sex or watching pornography. There was a case where a provincial chief monk reportedly got drunk and beat a clergyman, who didn't file a complaint for security reasons since the bully monk is recognised as the “king monk” in the province.

Also recently, a monk was caught making a video of naked ladies who went to his monastery for religious watering, a belief that the water provided by the monk will release all bad incidents or bring luck to people. The investigation, which led to an arrest, was followed by an enormous sharing of that nude video via Bluetooth from phone to phone.

This apparently raised concern over the emerging development of technology infrastructure in Cambodia where people can now widely access porn material more easily. However, as suggested by Chan Nim, the issue is left to the conscience of the people on the proper use of technologies. On the other hand, there are many well-behaved monks who understand the role of technology in promoting religious teachings. While it is now common to see many blogs initiated by young people to discuss social, technological or personal issues, there are now Buddhism-themed blogs such as Bodhikaram, Saloeurm, Khmerbuddhism. An extensive teaching of Buddhist philosophy is now accessible online in the form of short commentaries, dictionaries, podcasts, or textbooks, in both English and Khmer.

Moreover, there are a number of monks who are effectively maximising the Internet to reach a wider audience. Venerable Saloeurm Savath, for example, has been rigorously sharing many Buddhist teachings via Facebook, which acts as a natural linkage with his laypeople who can easily reach him for more explanation on certain Buddhist principles or issues.

It is hoped that monk morality can be strengthened to encourage the people to affirm their trust and faith in Buddhism.

Pagodas and monks are part of Cambodia's cultural and educational heritage. They continue to contribute a lot in society. It is hoped that monk morality can be strengthened to encourage the people to affirm their trust and faith in Buddhism, which has hugely contributed to national reconciliation and psychological peace, such as the case of survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime that kept applying Buddhist teachings to transform their revenge and anger to hope and peace of mind.

 

This post was originally published on Global Voices in July 2010.