Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the Inauguration of a Buddhist Temple and Achievements in the Pagoda of Prek Pra [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV: 08/02/2017Every Pagoda Should Write a History Book of Its Own

[…] I am so happy today to be able to join with all of you to cut the ribbon to inaugurate the Buddhist temple and achievements in the Prek Pra pagoda … I am so proud with achievements realized in this old Buddhist monastery. I have read information about the pagoda before coming to this event from this booklet. I am so fond of with the story telling about this pagoda. I hope that every Buddhist pagoda should write a history of its own and those without ones should start writing now. It is helpful for everybody to get to know the history and evolvement of each, and every pagoda from one stage to another.

According to the record kept in this book, the Prek Pra pagoda has been in existence 226 years to the presence. Built in 1790, it is now 226 years old. Maybe in those days I was one of the boys living on and serving the monks in this pagoda that today I have had the fortune to come here and cut the ribbon to inaugurate the temple, while meeting Buddhist parishioners in every directions of the event. Let us consider it a chance that because of our previous lives’ devotions, we are here together once again to celebrate this event.

7 January Liberates All Religions

As we all know, the Buddhist temple all over the country, not only this Prek Pra pagoda, suffered ill fate from the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. We made every effort to stand up again to rebuild the country, Buddhism also included. Buddhism has been an important part of the country’s progresses. We have been able to bridge development of secular and Buddhist, or religious worlds, along with development in other areas. I wish to take this solemn occasion to express my sincere appreciation and thanks for efforts made by every Buddhist monks, especially those becoming ones after the regime of Pol Pot. Under the regime of Pol Pot we not only lost Buddhist pagodas but also human lives. The liberation on 7 January 1979 liberated not only human lives but also all religions […]

Measuring Political Framework of the Ruling Party

Let me elaborate on what prompted the progress and development in the field of Buddhism and/or every religion as a whole? We could think about what the development measures or infers. I understand that there has now progress in the field of Buddhism, or for a wider coverage, religion – Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, and others. What has caused such development? I think there are no less than four factors. Firstly, it measures the political framework or platform of the ruling party. How far does it allow freedom of faiths for our people? This is an important factor relating to the platform of a state. We have a true example of the Popular Socialist regime of the late Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, Preah Borom Ratanakaod, in which he allowed people to go for any faith they might like to. However, after the coup in 1970, a number of pagoda buildings transformed into military barracks and numerous sites had become targets of the US and/or South Vietnamese regime’s bombardments, or even the Lon Nol’s own bombs.

Buddhism Will Last Till No More Faith

When the regime of Pol Pot came, it did not allow people any rights or freedom to believe or practice any religion at all. This is very important point about the political platform of a state, especially those in the framework of liberal democracy. I may have your attention that a shadow is naturally bigger than a true object it reflects. The Cambodian People’s Party political platform is not a shadow. It is a true object in the last 38 years after the country was liberated. There was a time when we three – the late Samdech Chea Sim, then President of the National Front, Samdech Heng Samrin, then the Head of State, and I, then Prime Minister, sat together to find out the best answer to respond to slanderous propaganda. It went: “the regime of Heng Samrin took Buddhism as a shield to hide itself and would eradicate it any day.”

We three came to conclusion that the best answer that would do the trick was that Buddhism would last as long as there is faith. It was the most logic answer. It depends on the fact that if the people continue to have faith in Buddhism, it prevails […] (Under the leadership of the CPP) Buddhism started from one monk who was a member of the National United Front (for the Salvation of Kampuchea) and we now have over four thousands pagodas and some 50,000 Buddhist monks. Along with this, we also have Islam, Christianity, and others, including those who do not believe in any religion. It is a tool to measure the political platform and concept of a ruling political party about religion […]

Measuring Followers’ Belief/Faith

Secondly, it reaffirms followers’ belief/faith in any given religion. Actions to build pagodas and/or to celebrate religious events will show that. A number of countries in the world have their own people who do not believe in any religion at all. I do not have to name them. In Cambodia we do. This year we will celebrate the end of the Monkey year and enter the Rooster year at 3am. We will go to Angkor Wat to celebrate the Sangkranta. That is why I am saying it is a tool to measure people’s faith on their own pagodas. I would seek the Buddhist monks’ help in assisting each other as some pagodas may have more than enough to survive on, while other do not.

Measuring Progress of People’s Living Condition

Thirdly, it is a tool to measure how much progress people make in their living condition. I am talking within the framework of Buddhism, for which people are building temples and residential halls. If people had difficult living condition, our Buddhist monks would also face with hardships. When people are in hardships from flooding, drought, etc., they would not be able to offer descent alms for the Buddhist monks. However, when they have good crops or do profitable business, they would offer the Buddhist monks their best foods and provide religious buildings and other achievements in pagodas.

We are lucky to keep on practicing religious as the country is in peace. At the time of war and genocidal regime of Pol Pot, no Buddhist monks were able to save just themselves. They had to disrobe against their wills to work in the field as other people and some were killed … That we had started from empty hands together to this day that we can organize big religious event altogether, it is a good thing. This time of year, it is a time to enjoy festivity in rural area. They may have performance arts, etc. However, for those closer to the city, they have access to TV show, they would have less interest for that.

Measuring Progress of Secular and Buddhist Worlds

Fourthly, it also tells about progress of relation between Buddhist and secular worlds. Should there be no progress of secular world, there would not be a room for smooth survival of Buddhism too. When the country is at war, what would happen? What would they do? Sometimes they even put the pagodas on fire. Now it is different. In secular world, we had been able to put out the war in the whole country, in addition to infrastructural development that makes every pagoda within reaching distance. This has shown progress in the field of Buddhism. We must hold that tightly in hands. Do not lose it because of empty promises. Think about what I said – shadow loomed larger than the true object it reflects.

Cambodia’s Harmonization of Race and Religion

… These above are the four major things that general development of Buddhism may reflect. Cambodia is in harmony of race and religion – Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, etc. I have seen over there the presence of our Muslim people. You see, there is no conflict. They are not here to change their faith or religion. They are here as a show of solidarity and to welcome the country’s Prime Minister. When the Buddhist monks are on their sermons, they would just think of Allah. This is a true example that the Cambodian People’s Party has been in the lead of harmonization of race and religion and people can co-exist. Muslims can also come to the Buddhist monastery. So do the Christians. When it is the inauguration of a Mosque, Buddhist followers would also attend. This is the good point of our country, while many in the region and the world torn by war and religious fight.

Buddhist Monks to Warn People of Drugs

I have two more points to make appeal on this occasion. First, the Royal Government is in its campaign to fight against drug. I would urge Buddhist monks and our people to take part in this campaign altogether. Would it be a better way to keep your children in prison for drug or to keep them homes? In some countries, their wars against drug users and traffickers have led to many thousands of lives loss. In Cambodia, we are not going on that course. Samdech Krolar Haom Sar Kheng is busy taking the lead of the Royal Government’s campaign to combat and eliminate drugs and its consequences. We had made so many arrests every day. However, the best option is their parents to help educate their children […] If our people can keep them homes and rehabilitate them, I think it would be better than allowing them to go on rampage, for which actions the authority will have them caught […] I would urge parents to find ways to keep them homes because this campaign is in operation without interruption. I am urging our Buddhist monks to use every preaching session to warn people of the negative consequences that drug would do to them and the traffic rule also.

Microfinance Institutions Are Not State Actors

The second think to appeal is to reaffirm to our people to understand that under whatever names they may be, microfinance institutions are not state actors. There have been confusions that microfinance institutions are those of the states. They have ripped people off their houses, lands, etc. Some have even campaigned that should they win the elections, they would clear all their debts. Let me tell you that these institutions are of private owner and not of the state. They would have to launch a revolution to remove the current regime and replace it with another one. In the course of doing so, the country would turn upside down, like what Pol Pot did to the country. I am appealing our people to understand this complication. They should be careful about borrowing money from them. Some borrowed money for purchasing motorcycles and they later could not pay interests. This has led to having their homes, lands, etc. confiscated. Making them believe that microfinance institutions are the state actors, people bear anger at the ruling party.

National Bank to Certify “Non-State Actor” to Microfinance Institutions

… Some politicians tell people that should they win the elections, they would eliminate all debts. There is no way for them to do that unless you are going to remove the regime of Constitutional Monarchy. It is not a regime that I created alone. I am just the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is a Constitutional monarchy regime. Unless they remove it and create a new regime like Pol Pot did. I am appealing to the institutions to certify themselves as private institutions. The National Bank of Cambodia must take this matter seriously. All microfinance institutions must certify to clear people’s mind and to know that those are no institutions of the state.

We must carry out this task both ways – educating people to understand what they are exactly, and more importantly, the microfinance institutions themselves must do the clarification. If they ignore the plea, just withdraw their licenses. In every institutions, their major headquarters, they must state somewhere in big and visible letters that they are not state but private foundation. Their staff must be the first to tell people that their services are private and not those of state. You may have this option to print it out as a book to clear it once, and for all. I must state that the state has no right to lend people money or people cannot borrow from the National Bank. All banks that either land or receive to deposit are private banks and microfinance institutions, which have their agents working in your communities.

Examining Legal Ways on Those Who Urge People to Borrow

I think we should understand each other better in this case and political parties should not use this trick. They go around whispering to people to vote for them so they would clear people’s debts in return. Should there be such an act in flagrante delicto, they must face arrests and face justice. I am urging a study of all legal tools to see if we can deal with this issue because while doing so, it is like urging people to borrow more. It is no difference to killing people for their votes. I am also asking our people to think thoroughly what to do with the loans before going for it. Some microfinance agents also are too fast to confiscate people’s properties. In some cases, we were able to intervene. If it happens in that case, we must take actions against the microfinance institutions.

In fact, microfinance institutions have important roles to play in providing loans for people. I am appealing to all microfinance institutions to reserve understanding for people who borrowed their money but are falling into hardships such as from flood, drought, and are not able to pay in principle and interest on schedule. I am asking for your understanding that you may reschedule the term of payments. This is an elections time … a whispering season. If we could gather proof, we may send one to the court on charge of cheating people. Let us find out in which legal tool we can proceed […]

Request New Administration of Donald Trump to Call off Cambodia’s Debts

… Well, let me bring up just one more matter about requesting the Americans not to demand for Cambodia’s debt payment. We have discovered many more, not only clustered bombs but also chemical bombs. The Americans fought us and demanded us to pay. It is impossible to understand. We have movements that demand cancellation of debts from the new US administration. I hope that political parties in Cambodia also support the call for the US to cancel debts. Well, being close to the US, the opposition may not demand that perhaps. However, they denounced Trump as dictator. It is a mess out there. Let us wait and see the clash between presidential power and that of the court. Who will emerge? It seems they have on-going demonstrations too./.