Cambodia: Buddhist monks barred from water festival to prevent undignified behaviour

By the Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Buddhist monks in Cambodia will be banned from taking part in a water festival this month to prevent undignified behaviour such as mingling with scantily clad women and seeing couples kissing, the country’s chief monk said Wednesday.

During the Nov. 20-22 Boat Racing Festival monks will be required to stay in their pagodas and watch the event on TV, said 85-year-old chief patriarch Non Gneth.

“For a monk to walk freely with crowds of ordinary people during the water festival violates the rules of the Lord Buddha,” the patriarch said.

“If the monks walk freely, they will see women wearing sexy clothes or see people kissing. This violates their discipline,” he said. He added some younger monks carried mobile phones equipped with cameras at last year’s festival and took pictures of people dancing, drinking alcohol and kissing — all of which are not allowed, including the possession of cellphones.

Monks are supposed to adhere to a code of Buddhist precepts that include celibacy and not touching or being alone with women, not drinking alcohol and leading a contemplative lifestyle without material possessions.

A committee has been created to curb bad behaviour among monks and if any are seen mingling at the festival they will be reprimanded and sent for a re-education class before being returned to their temples, Non Gneth said.

Authorities estimate upward of 2 million people could descend on the capital, Phnom Penh, for the annual boat festival, also known as the water festival, which takes place at the end of the rainy season along the Tonle Sap River.

Some 400 wooden boats will compete in rowing contests that are part of a carnival-like atmosphere that also includes evening concerts, fireworks and late-night partying.

About 85 per cent of Cambodia’s 14 million people are Buddhist. The country has 4,000 Buddhist temples and more than 50,000 monks.

World Prize Given Cambodian Monk

Sun Narin

September 7, 2010

MONKS COMMUNITY FORESTRY (MCF)  in Oddar Meanchey provincial Samraong district has been chosen by the Equator Initiative’s Technical Advisory Committee in the United States as one of 25 outstanding winners of the Equator Prize 2010 because it has a strong demonstration of the ingenuity of community-based work currently being undertaken in the tropics, often against tremendous odds, according to United Nation Development Program’s press release on July 15, 2010.

Venerable Bun Salouth, 39, the director of MCF committe and now staying in Prasat Reach Samraong pagoda, said that the villagers, the committee members and nation-wide people were very surprised and happy to hear that Cambodia won the world’s prize.

“I am absolutely delighted to be one of 25 winners, representing Cambodia as a whole,”, adding that “I could not imagine that I won,” said Bun Saluth.

He said that his committee was established since 2001 and have been helping the forest life alot. Now it has some 60 members including monks and people.

He added that the committee’s duty is to guard in the forests everyday, disseminate the information, educate people and to raise awareness of the forests and wildlife in the forests of the roughly 18000 hectares.

“We are working specifically on protecting the forests and wildlife,” he said.

He said that his committee was awarded due to voluntary work to helping develop the country, devoting to supporting forests resource, loving forests and the successful work in the forests.

MCF will receive a $5,000 USD award and a Certificate of Achievement which will be presented at the Equator Prize Award Ceremony in New York, USA on 20 September, 2010.

He said that he would take the award champion to put in the government place for Cambodia and use money for solve the problem in the forests and support the committee.