A Pagoda of Learned Persons

It is a great pleasure today that I have the chance to come see you all and with you to inaugurate the Buddhist temple of the Buddhist pagoda of Nund Muni in the commune of Stoeng Meanjei, Meanjei district, Phnom Penh. I am so embarrassed that the Buddhist head monk of the pagoda allowed me to inaugurate the temple for which I have not contributed even a single cent. It is very kind of him to honor me with the task. I am taking this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the Buddhist wise men committee, Buddhist parishioners and generous persons for taking part in making these achievements happen in the pagoda that I am bestowed upon with the task to put it into official use.

In fact, I was in Vientiane yesterday for the CLV/CLMV/ACMECS meetings. I had in mind that even if the meeting has to drag on to nine at night I would still have the ability to come back to Phnom Penh on time for the inauguration ceremony. As the program in Vientiane finished as scheduled, I could make it to Phnom Penh at 3:15 pm. I arrived home at 3:30 but I got into my living room at 5:30 pm as I had to spend two hours viewing and signing the works that I have missed during the time that I was not home. I have a habit of finishing the job on my desk. I also had a chance to read those files on this event to get a better understanding of it.

I thank HE Min Khin for the report, which clarifies from one stage to another of the Nund Muni pagoda’s development. There was a royal family member prince Chakrey and his spouse Noun who provided the land to the Buddhist monks for building the pagoda. It was back in 1966. It was indeed a generous offer of the royal family in those days. Though it was before called Nuon Muni, the pagoda is now Nund Muni, which means the monastery that is a place of pleasure for all learned persons.  I am sure some of the students residing in the pagoda would become learned persons. According to the report by HE Min Khin, 93 of them have left the pagoda into work and society, and there are 67 left taking shelters in the pagoda these days.

Religious Faith in Everyone’s Heart and Mind

I am so proud of efforts made by everyone, including Buddhist monks under the leadership of the head monk in the phase after 1979. Everyone knows that the war broke out in 1970 and protracted through to 1975. Shelling and bombardments threatened the people’s lives as well as pagodas. Worse still, in between 1975 through to 1979, not only Buddhist monastery but also shrines of other religions as well had been targets of destruction. (The Khmer Rouge) stripped the people off not only materials but also their ownerships, possessions, sentiments and faiths. Under Pol Pot, people could not even choose their own spouses.

In 1976, a dog bit my foot in protection of her offsprings. I then came to my though that the dog had even more rights than I did or we did. It had the rights to protect its offsprings and gave me a scar until today. That is why I said that the dog had more rights than human. They stripped of all the rights and separated husbands and wives, parents and children. We were no match to the dog then. This devil regime abolished faith and religion, while damaging human lives and/or Buddhist pagoda, some of which had turned to be animal farms according to historical records.

As we have all seen, although Pol Pot abolished faith, they could not do it in everyone’s mind and heart. After the 7 January 1979 victory, the Cambodian People’s Party set out and adhered to the policy of giving people freedom and religious faith. In just a short time, our people have restored fully the religious practice and respect. In 1979, we had limited number of monks for any religious ceremonies. Even Samdech Tep Vong, the Buddhist patriarch became monk only in September 1979. In the National United Front for Salvation of Kampuchea, we had only one Buddhist monk – Venerable Long Sim, who was vice chief monk of the province of Svay Rieng and fled to Vietnam. He was disrobed and forced to marry. He left his monkhood and joined secular world with his wife. I have the duty to raise his family after Senior Long Sim passed away.

Pol Pot’s Policy Destroys Religion, CPP’s Policy Gives It Development

Under Pol Pot, there were no monks, while after Pol Pot we also did not have sufficient number of monks for the celebration of Buddhist ritual. In order to become monk, one needs to have a higher priest to preside over the ordaining rite. Where do we find one, then? In fact, our Buddhism has made quick progress. What has happened in the whole nation, as far as Buddhism is concerned, shows that even if I do not contribute one cent, people could mobilize resources to build this temple. As a contribution, I would pay, if the head monk agrees, on his behalf the due amount owed for construction materials. We will have a talk about this later.

What happened under Pol Pot had reflected clearly the Pol Pot’s policy that destroyed religions and national progress, and killed millions of human lives included. As for the Cambodian People’s Party, we started the country’s reconstruction from hardship and ruined condition, and our people here, who are between 75 and 80 years of age, or even 60, could have remembered that. Though I could not finance the construction of over 4,000 pagodas, thanks to the Cambodian People’s Party policies, every one of them could survive and made progress one way or another after the victory of 7 January. Allowing people to hold on to their religious faith, though the Party does not involve in the process itself, is tantamount to contributing to the progress of the religions based on our correct policies too.

Buddhism is the state religion and because of the correct policies in other fields, the CPP policies have brought about progress in our people’s livelihood too because of more income they made. It is because our people are making more money that they could provide for the monks not only good food but also cash contribution for the construction of temples, accessories and other achievements in the pagoda. The most important point here is the correctness of policy, which plays indispensable role in national leadership towards progress. Anything in controversial to this had reflected in the period between 1970 and 1975.

Two parties of conflicts were all wrong. Some used the bombs to destroy pagoda. I met a man now living in the United States of America who said he was former Lon Nol’s pilot of T28 aircraft. I told him it was because you bombed the pagoda that made you lose the war so quickly. In those days, they said that the Viet Cong took shelter in the pagoda. That was why many Buddhist pagodas were bombed. Well in fighting, bullets have no eyes. I used to stay in the Buddhist pagoda of Jiro. Lon Nol’s commanders used it as their barrack. Whoever fought against them meant they fought against the Buddhist pagodas. Numerous pagodas along the river of Mekong that were used as barracks – Buddhist pagodas of Tonle Bet, Roka Thom and other.

Worse still, under Pol Pot, their policies were to destroy nation and religion, while creating havoc for our people. After the liberation of 7 January 1979, aside from enhancing Buddhism as the state religion, it is everyone’s freedom to have faith in whatever religion they want. Benefiting from the provision of chance for religious faith and national development policy from step to step every citizen is able to practice their religious faith and rites. I talked on various occasions already about interconnection between Buddhism and secular world. The two depends on each other and must proceed together. Once the Buddhist parishioners are well off, the Buddhist monks would have better food. On the contrary, if parishioners were in hardship, like encountering with flood, drought, etc., the Buddhist monks would definitely have to face with food scarcity too.

Buddhism and Secular World, Buddhism and the Poor

I am so proud that under the leadership of Samdech Preah Akka Moha Sangha Raja, many Buddhist monks in various places have contributed to the Cambodian Red Cross to provide relief assistance to the people. When the people are in difficulties, especially at the time when the whole country celebrates Projum Ben (offering food and clothing to monks in favor for the passed away ancestors), it is usual to see that some of the head monks bring out food and other necessary stuffs to offer to the people who were living in hardship. I noticed that Samdech Sao Chanthol and Samdech Preah Udom Jariya Jin Bun Chhea have been quite active in this front, either offering them through the Cambodian Red Cross or by themselves.

If there were no policy set out by the Royal Government or the ruling Party, people would not have the chance to exercise their religious faith. Like under Pol Pot, they keep their religious faith in their hearts and minds. People could not and dared not bring it to the open. In this sense, we could also say that the Pol Pot regime abolished only the exteriority of the religious faith, while substance was in the people’s hearts and minds. In the present time our Buddhist monks do seem to go without food, no matter near or far they are travelling. The reason is because we now have better roads and their vehicles are air-conditioned too. That is a new epoch. No one prohibit the Buddhist monks from using cars. In the old days, no matter how hot the weather would be, the Buddhist monks would go collect alms on bare foot. They would look only within six meters but they now have to look far otherwise they would face with traffic accidents. According to the Buddhist scriptures, the Gautama Buddha envisaged that Buddhism would last only 5,000 years.

In the 1980s, Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin and I responded logically to the question concerning religion and faith in very simple term. The question was how long would Buddhism last as Pol Pot already abolished, though the exteriority only, it once. We said Buddhism would last until human beings stop believing it. If people continue to believe and practice, it will be here. As long as people still believe in Buddhism, in Islam, in Christianity and others, they all will survive. This is a rational thought we all must recognize that there is real progress as far as people’s contribution for Buddhism, in this case construction of the Buddhist temple, is concerned.

I am of the thought that the souls of former head monk Meak Each, disrobed by the Polpotists and the second head monk Sin Reem, who passed away in 2002, are very happy with the works fulfilled by the current head monk Sok Bunthoen in this  pagoda. I also am of the opinion that with the efforts made by the layman committee, parishioners of the pagoda and charitable persons, the souls of Prince Chakrey and Lady Nuon would be very happy to see new achievements that are growing now on the land that they offered in dedication for Buddhist interests. I am grateful for the joint efforts in constructing these new achievements. In fact, the Buddhist rituals have gone on for five days and nights already. Today we come to its final phase to put these achievements into official use.

No matter how much one has contributed for the achievements, I would just urge everyone be elated to benefit together from the merit that we all do together. It has been our teaching that as long as you have the intention to do merit and refrain from committing sins, you already benefit from it. Our new achievements consist of one huge temple, one merit-making hall, two residence halls for monks, 250 meters of concrete pathway in the pagoda and 150 meters of the fence. Once the pagoda is clean and keeping its sanitary condition, more parishioners will be happy to come for religious rituals.

I have learned that for the construction of the temple, the pagoda owes some 45,000 USD. I would offer you the amount to end the contract. Venerable head monk may keep the fund collected for other needs and use this offer I made for paying the debt from the construction. I have not visited the Neakavoan Pagoda in years. I used to live with monks in pagoda so I have my way to go along with them. According to the statistics, in Phnom Penh, we have some 4,694 students staying in pagoda. The best accommodation for poor students is the Buddhist pagoda. Most of our intellectuals spent their lives living in pagoda to keep up with their studies. For the poor, there is no place to stay better than in pagoda. I am so grateful for the Buddhist head monks in every pagoda for allowing these students to stay in their monasteries in pursuit of their studies.

Samdech Krom Preah Would Not Make Himself a Rolling Stone

Today I want to talk about religious policy only but I have one issue that I need to clarify though I already talked on phone with HE Nhek Bun Chhay at around 10 pm and conveyed a message through Soy Sopheap (a journalist) to Samdech Krom Preah. On the very same issue, this morning the Phnom Penh Post runs an article contributed by Chum Chandarin, in the readers’ column. In Vientiane, where I attended the CLV, CLMV and ACMECS meetings, I found it unbelievable when HE Hor Nam Hong came to me with the news that Funcinpec sued Samdech Krom Preah over this helicopter sale issue. Working until 5pm after returning to Phnom Penh, I then followed to getting my files from Vientiane organized. At around 8 pm, I called HE Nhek Bun Chhay to find out the problem concerning Samdech Krom Preah.

After listening to what HE Nhek Bun Chhay had to say, I called Soy Sopheap and depended on him to deliver a message to Samdech Krom Preah that I had nothing to involve with this. On Radio Free Asia, according to the report I have here in my mail, Ou Virak, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Centre, affirmed that absolutely the Cambodian People’s Party would not allow Samdech Krom Preah to return to politics, especially if Samdech Krom Preah aligned with the opposition. They even added “if the news is true, Samdech Krom Preah has become a political hostage of the current ruling Party already.” HE Nhek Bun Chhay justified his action that it was because someone has proclaimed that Samdech Krom Preah would become Honorary Head of the so-called Cambodia National Rescue Party.

I said frankly to HE Nhek Bun Chhay that this development was very childish and I hope Samdech Krom Preah would not take this matter carelessly. Concerning helicopter sale I made it clear to HE Nhek Bun Chhay that suing Samdech Krom Preah is like suing me. The reason is easy to understand. No one can just fly over the Cambodian airspace. If ever Samdech Krom Preah would like to take his helicopter anywhere, he has to have permission from the Prime Minister. I think this should be a clear issue for everyone to see. Secondly, I do not believe Samdech Krom Preah would inflict an insult on the soul of Samdech Ov, (Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod) his father, and their royal families, by making himself head of the opposition party. He would face the possibility of getting looked down upon as a rolling stone too. I would not believe that is what he wants. Samdech Krom Preah even made recently a clear warning for members of the royal family not to involve in politics too.

Analysis That Is Immature

I think that those analysts should be more objective and I wish they should stay away from me. As for Mr. Ou Virak, I know you have the right but I should also tell you that I have right too. I find your analysis very immature and you need to work harder to learn more.

Last night I talked with Soy Sopheap and I made it clear that I believed Samdech Krom Preah for one would not debase himself to do what those analysts have said he would be doing. How could he turn against the Cambodian People’s Party that defends faithfully the monarchy by aligning himself with the opposition party? Doing otherwise would be tantamount to go against his intention to have a lasting monarchy and/or destroying the monarchy right away. Secondly, Samdech Krom Preah would put himself in deadlock position. The reason is that he used to be above those politicians, but by doing what they said he would do, Samdech Krom Preah would have to rely on them. Would he be able to do that?

Thirdly, assuming that all I am saying will all go wrong, everyone still remembers that earlier Samdech Kropm Preah had used his father’s name – Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk – in the electoral campaign against me in 1993-98 and from 2003 through to 2008. In those elections, frankly speaking, the true meaning was the competition between Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen. In the electoral campaign, Funcinpec called on people to vote for it should they love Samdech Ov Preah Norodom Sihanouk. On the Cambodian People’s Party campaign trails, should people want Hun Sen as Prime Minister, they need to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party. That means simply that if the people love Hun Sen, they have to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party.

I have gone through various contests already and I do not think HE Nhek Bun Chhay should worry about that at all. Soy Sopheap told me that Samdech Krom Preah called to him to pass a message to me, as I left for Vientiane that he would not go to the opposition. I think Samdech Krom Preah does not worry any more that I think he is joining the opposition. Samdech Krom Preah and I were holding hands, and sobbing together in the cremation ceremony (of Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod) and lighted the pyre for the fifth time. How could we, who just celebrated this very moving ceremony, sue each other? When HM the King and the Queen Mother left for Beijing, we also held each other’s hands seeing them off. How could they make such immature analysis?

A Politician Afraid of His Own Shadow

There is one other person who said that I am a coward. I would just trade a few words for that. Firstly, he left the country, I did not chase him out and if he wants to come back, I also will not object. I never chase him out of the country and that is the fact. I must make it clear to the people in the country as well as in the world. When he left, he said he was on self-exile. The press also made that clearly the point. The Royal Government never has involved in that. As of this time, there is no one to prevent your return. In fact, he even claimed that he would return to Cambodia with the US President Obama in the latter’s plane. His supporters were so happy and bragged around that was the result of international pressure. Everything about the person is definitely legal matter.

Secondly, he said I am a cowardice that dare not compete with him. He may remember that in 1998, 2003 and 2008 those in his electoral campaigns came scolding me right in front of my house. They chanted “let’s change” in repeated manner. During the campaigns, he was charged ten million Riels for abusing the electoral law as everyone could recall. He pointed at the Cambodian People’s Party placard on which there are three portraits – Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin on either side and I am in the middle – that the three are thieves who steal from the nation, the middle one is the worst. I had him knocked out three times already. If I were him, I would resign from leadership already.

How could he call me coward while I was in the competition with him three times already? There is nothing to do with me whether he return or not for another contest because it depends on him and his legal case. Since when he was 35 years old, Hun Sen competed with heavyweight veterans like the King Father, who was then President of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, Son San, former Prime Minister from the old days, Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea and Vice President of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, etc. Samdech Krom Preah was not Hun Sen’s counterpart at the time. He was a member of the meeting’s minutes taking team like HE Cham Prasidh.

It is on this note that I would assure that Hun Sen is afraid of nothing. Since June 20, 1977, Hun Sen led the struggle movement without hesitation and being afraid of death. I would hold ground and stay with my people. According to the report I have, this man was worried that Singapore would arrest and send him to Cambodia, while he was there. He is afraid of his own shadow. As for Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, when the Government of Myanmar wanted her to leave the country, she decided to stay and face house arrest. As for this pal, with his dual nationality passport, he made it a dart to get out of the country. This has clearly given us an example of how politicians of dual nationality passport would do for the country.

I would urge HE Nhek Bun Chhay not to get angry with me on this issue of helicopter as I have the need to clarify since it has involved me too. I would not stop Nhek Bun Chhay from suing but I just have the need to tell him that if he sues Samdech Krom Preah is like suing me because wherever Samdech Krom Preah would take the helicopter to, he would have to have permission from the Prime Minister. I would ask him to think again about the fact that he had failed his party many times already. In the US, the presidential candidate would resign if s/he failed it once. While in Cambodia, this type of politician would stay on and agitate Hun Sen. I would not be easily agitated.

Well, returning to our political reality, as long as we have correct policy, the country will make progress, Buddhism will see its advancement. On the contrary, incorrect policy would destroy Buddhism and we already have the example under the Pol Pot’s regime. Its government did not support religious faith of any kind. They destroyed religions. The religious faith was in the people’s heart and mind. It is with correct policy and religious faith that we have brought back development for Buddhism until today. That is how things have devevoped./.