Lok Oknha Sos Kamry, Chairman of Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Municipal/Provincial, District/Khan Imams, Masjid Imams, Teachers and Students of Islam,
Beloved Compatriots,

Today, I am delighted to be here with Excellencies, Lok Oknha, Ladies and Gentlemen, national and international guests and Muslim compatriots at the closing of this 22nd National Quran Recitation Competition. Participation of Muslims from all corners of the country really shows the brotherhood of all Islamic communities, and more importantly, the unity and pride of the nation. This event shows the good progress of all religious beliefs in the Kingdom of Cambodia which has been clearly stated in the Constitution and the Royal Government’s attention to freedom of religion for all Cambodian people. Freedom of religion is indeed a key factor that helps ensure peace, political stability, social harmony and economic prosperity, protect the diversity of culture and custom, and achieve happiness in the society.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend the Ministry of Cult and Religions for working with the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia to organize this event, under the theme of “Youths and Society” which is an honor and prestige of Islam religion and an indication of the Royal Government’s special attention to national and international Islamic communities. In this spirit, I would like to praise the Cambodian Islam community for showing excellent cooperation, solidarity and honesty based on the principle of mutual understanding by respecting the right of other religion followers and strictly adhering the spirit of non-violence, compassion and peaceful co-existence under all circumstances over the past decades, allowing our society to enjoy peace and development.

We are fully aware that religions play a significant role in the development and maintenance of peace in the society by teaching believers the value of honesty, righteousness,​ karma (cause and effect), and how to get rid of suffering by staying away from dishonesty, sinful act, anger, and greed to attain peace of mind. In this connection, the Royal Government fully supports the freedom of religion in Cambodia by adhering to the principle of mutual understanding and respect to ensure peaceful co-existence of all religions.

In response to our firm commitment to promote parallel progress, development and complementarity for the present and the future, the Royal Government will continue to respect people’s freedom of religious belief or practice, as long as there is no violation of other religions. We clearly understand that the relationship between religious beliefs and way of life cannot be separated. In this spirit, I would like call on believers of all religion in Cambodia to live harmonically and participate in the development with the government to build a better Cambodia for the present and the future.

Indeed, the Royal Government of Cambodia has created mechanisms to ensure parallel progress of all religions. For instance, the Ministry of Cult and Religions and the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia were approved to organize Al-Quran recitation competition at convenient time without having to wait for invitation letter from hosting partner at both national and municipal/provincial levels. In addition, from 2013 onward, the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia is approved to set up a fund for organizing the Al-Quran recitation competition at municipal/provincial and national levels, and promoting the education of Islam. This year’s Al-Quran Recitation Competition is jointly organized by the Ministry of Cult and Religion and the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia to select a male and female winner to represent Cambodia to participate in the 54th international Al-Quran recitation competition in Kuala lumpur, Malaysia, which will be organized in the near future. There will be a large number of recitation contesters from other countries taking part in that competition. In this connection, I highly value Al-Quran recitation contesters from Cambodia for the good result in various international competitions by always achieving ranking within the top half, and sometimes 5th or 6th ranking, among contestants from 75 countries.

This is a remarkable achievement following the rebirth of Islam in Cambodia on January 07, 1979. At that time, Cambodia reemerged from ruins left by the Pol Pot regime, as the invaluable culture and tradition of Islam had been destroyed with small number of Muslims compared to other regional countries and very limited resources, especially in education sector. However, thanks to the hard-work of the highest council for Islamic religious affairs in Cambodia, Cambodian Muslims and the Royal Government’s attention to the development of religious sector, Islam in Cambodia have regained its progress as good as in other countries.

As mentioned above, we clearly see that when the country is in the state of utter chaos, people lived with fear, died, got injured or disabled while the physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and so forth were destroyed, meaning that religious sector was also destroyed. During the period of three years, eight months and twenty days of the Pol Pot regime, all religions, including schools, hospitals, pagodas, Mosques and other infrastructures were abolished. Therefore, any wrong political maneuver will result not only in the destruction of the country, but also the destruction of all religions.

Although the Kingdom of Cambodia regards Buddhism as the State Religion, which is respected and practiced by the majority of Cambodian people, the Royal Government fully respects the people’s freedom of religious beliefs and practices based on equal rights, treatment and obligations as long as there is no violation of other religions. What really makes all of us proud is our ability to ensure religions or races do not become a barrier of cooperation and development. This factor helps us maintain full peace after the war. In this connection, the Royal Government continue to call on all communities, regardless of their religions, to exert joint efforts to promote cooperation, human rights, non-discrimination spirit, and common progress.

In addition, I fully support the right of Cambodian Muslims to follow and practice your priceless religious heritage in accordance with the principles of Islam. I also strongly encourage all batches of male and female students of Islam at municipal/provincial, district levels to study Al-Quran harder to light up the way toward happiness in families and the society. Along with that, I would like to commend the Muslim compatriots who are present in this event and Muslims in the whole country for firmly preserving the tradition of Al-Quran recitation in each household community, regardless of living standard.

Taking the opportunity of this gathering for the Al-Quran recitation competition, I would like to provide a number of recommendations relating to the Islam community, the preservation of tradition, solidarity of Muslims and the recitation of Al-Quran as follows:

First, The Ministry of Cults and Religions needs to collaborate with the Highest Council for Islamist Religious Affairs in Cambodia which has branches in municipalities, provinces, districts, and communes, and identify means to strengthen the national and international relations in order to mobilize spirit, material and human resource supports to strengthen and expand the tradition of Al-Quran recitation. Wherever Cambodian Muslims live, there should be specific arrangement for studying Al-Quran as their routine practices and preparation for selecting recitation students to participate in the recitation contests at national and sub-national levels such as in villages, communes, districts, cities, provinces and municipalities.

Second, for the benefit of the Muslim communities as well as the national policy, there needs to transform the essence of the national recitation competition of Al-Quran into real actions with meaningful aspect for the Muslim communities. The Ministry of Cults and Religions along with the Highest Council for Islamist Religious Affairs in Cambodia should identify the core theme and change it every year so that it is in line with the situation and circumstance of the country; for instance Islam and Peace or Islam and Development as such. In addition, it would be good if there are workshops, radio-broadcasts or at least written documents or books relating to the core theme for the male-female candidates, listeners and participants to use as basis or model for continued and effective implementation at the sub-national level.

Third, Male and female recitation winners that will take part in ASEAN and international recitation competitions, must bear in mind that you represent Cambodia. Hence, it means you represent the honor and reputation of the nation. In addition, you need to continue good cooperation with hosting and participating countries for the benefit of Muslim community and society of Cambodia.

Fourth, Through the Ministry of Cults and Religions, the Highest Council for Islamist Religious Affairs in Cambodia needs to continue the effort to take part in socio-economic development, especially in the education and health sectors which really contribute to poverty reduction in Cambodia. In this spirit, you need to continue work relations with other Muslim countries including organizations, associations, and donors to seek assistance and support for the development of Cambodia’s Muslim community, especially scholarships for Muslim students to continue their studies in general education and specialized skills.

Fifth, Leaders of Muslim community and all Muslims need to collaborate, unify and unite internally in Cambodia’s Muslim community and absolutely oppose any intention of splitting-up and the use Muslim religion as a shield to serve their own ambition which is against the Islam Law.

Sixth Cambodia’s Muslim community needs to show good relations and cooperation with other religious communities at national and international levels for the sake of peace, security and development of Cambodia.

Truly, the implementation of these recommendations will contribute to the peaceful co-existence and harmony of all religions, Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, and other sects to ensure peace, political stability and development and improvement of living standard. Also, we also promote the comprehensive dissemination and absorption of universal knowledge in all localities and communities and continue to promote exchange of cultures, traditions and arts among our people in order to improve mutual understandings and to jointly accomplish more achievements in the society.

Once again, I would like to commend the Ministry of Cults and Religions for the close collaboration with the Highest Council for Islamist Religious Affairs in Cambodia to organize the 22nd National Al-Quran Recitation Competition under the theme of “Youth and Society”, which provides substantial motivation for Islam students and Cambodia’s Muslims in the development of Islamist religion for the benefit of the whole society.

Finally, along with the declaration of the Closing of the 22nd Al-Quran Recitation Competition, May the Allah God bless Excellencies, Oknha, Ladies and Gentlemen, especially the management of the Highest Council for Islamist Religious Affairs in Cambodia, recitation contestants, with happiness and prosperity./.