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Cambodia: Decline of Monk Morality?

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Digital Activism, Education, Religion

[1]Since Buddhism is a state religion guaranteed by the Constitution and the fact that nearly all Cambodians are Buddhists, the recent reported decline of monk morality in the country is a cause of 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 [2]where a provincial chief monk reportedly got drunk and beat a clergymen who didn't file a complaint for security reason since the bully monk is recognized as the king monk in the province. Recently, a monk was caught making a video of naked ladies [3] 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 a question over the emerging development of technology infrastructure in Cambodia where people can widely access porn materials more easily. However, as suggested by Chan Nim [4], 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 who discuss social, technological or personal issues, there are now Buddhism-themed blogs such as Bodhikaram [5], Saloeurm [6], Khmerbuddhism [7]. 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 maximizing the internet in order to reach a wider audience. Venerable Saloeurm Savath [8], for example, has been rigorously sharing many Buddhist teachings via face-book [9]which acts as a natural linkage with his laypeople who can easily reach him for more explanation on certain Buddhist Principle or issues.

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.

Photo from the flickr page of Adam Jones, Ph.D. [1]