Buddhist Education Facilities Provide National Human Resources
I am so glad today to have the honor to preside over the graduation and diploma presentation ceremony for 657 graduates of the Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University (PSBU), among them 208 are in pedagogy and 14 are female. As is reported by HE Min Khin, Minister of Cults and Religious Affairs, this is the third graduation and diploma presentation so far and I have been present in all of them. I wish to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs, and those concerned for making efforts in training of human resources, in which Buddhist monks are part of it.
PSBU provides its training programs not only for Buddhist monks but also for students from secular circle too. It should be noted that both at the PSBU and The Preah Sihamoni Raja Buddhist University provide training services to students who are either Buddhist monks or Buddhist followers in general. I see that they both represent marvelous contributions in efforts to help our poor students to pursue their studies. I would like to take this opportune moment to sincerely thank the graduates for making every effort to achieve their goals.
I wish to single out one fact that among Buddhist monks, I would say perhaps one or two percents of them may have come from well-to-do families, and I am sure the majority of them are from poor families. Hence, it is my understanding that the Buddhist Schools of all levels have done a great job in providing training for these people from primary through to the University degree. After graduating from the pedagogical training here, they could go on with teaching career in any educational institutions.
Efforts made so far by students of the PSBU until they are finally presented with diplomas today have made them invaluable human resources for our nation who would be able to contribute both in Buddhist as well as secular realm.
Buddhist Education Facilities under the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs
I would like to take this opportune moment to inform all of you that in its recent meeting, the Cabinet discussed a new sub-decree to replace the old one on issue of organizational role and function of the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs. The Head of Buddhist monks, Samdech Non Nget, and Samdech Preah Pothivang Am Lim Heng, were also present. They were there because what the Cabinet discussed at the time involved directly and primarily to issue of the Buddhist study.
As I have expressed on several occasions that we have to work out a way to make sure that our Buddhist education facilities and programs would go on with sustainable development. The sub-decree was in fact prepared through so many discussions with concerned parties, but because of its importance and concerns with various sectors, such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, and more importantly the issue of budgeting, it has been decided that the sub-decree was to be brought up for the Cabinet meeting.
So far, education under Buddhist institutions has been offered depending on efforts of Buddhist monks in raising fund to support the training program. This has brought them to a situation that in absence of such financial support, these institutions would not be able to sustain their actions in every level. I have, therefore, recommended that we are looking at the possibility of integrating them into the state system so that budget support for their programs could be addressed.
It should be affirmed that according to the new system, which will be coming into force soon, Buddhist study and inspectors will be part of the structure of the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs. The sub-decree does not require that inspector and deputy inspector(s) be Buddhist monks, while rector and vice rector(s) of the institutions do. The sub-decree has been defined that way so to allow access to national budget, and in according with the budget law, under the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs.
I wish that our Buddhist monks see its importance and do not feel a doubt as to why do the Buddhist institutions are being placed under the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs. It is all about financial sustainability of these institutions. Let me affirm that national budget only provides to lawfully established Ministry. You may understand that some authorities, take for instance the authorities on Land Conflict Solution, National Disaster Management, Mines, HIV/AIDS, Agriculture and Rural Development, etc. do not have their own budgets but receive financing through the Council of Ministers, their senior financial officer.
The same is true for the Agricultural University of Jamka Doung, the School of Agriculture at Prek Leap, and more of the like, whose financial officer is the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry. The Ministry of Health, who manages the University of Health Sciences, the school of medical care, etc. also serves as principal financial officer of these training institutions. Another example is the Ministry of Culture who also manages and holds financial supervision over the University of Fine Arts and Music.
Buddhist Contributions for Betterment of Secular World
I have been so pleased to note that Buddhism in our country has done so many things for the betterment of the secular world. I have mentioned earlier about the fact that we do not seem to have a proper career development for those who assist in all religious rituals, whether it be funeral or wedding event. Buddhist clergymen are so obvious in Cambodian daily life and religious activities. I also thank those involved in preparing and organizing this session of Buddhist preaching that I sometimes have tears in my eyes while watching and listening to it.
I am of the opinion that this helps a great deal to elevate the understanding of Buddhism and Buddhist discipline, which is for achieving and/or becoming good persons. This has indeed been instrumental in the state management affairs. The fact that our tradition has been well preserved is because of the role of the Buddhist monastery. We may go back to history when the French ruled this part of the world there were two countries that they could not change scripts. They are Cambodia and Laos. Two other countries that the British could not Romanize their scripts too are Thailand and Myanmar.
That is all thanks to the role of Buddhist monastery. If it were not because of it, these countries may suffer similar fate like those in Africa, where some use French language as their own. The Buddhist monasteries in countries Cambodia, Laos, Thai, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc. have served as a sacred place where traditional, educational and cultural heritages are kept. Again, in the time of globalization, our monastery once again serves as a countermeasure in cultural conservation.
Buddhist Contribution for National Defense
I would like to take this joyous occasion to express my sincere thanks, on behalf of the Royal Government, for the Buddhist monks in all monasteries throughout the country who have pooled their resources and made every effort in providing assistance to our people in difficult circumstances. In recent years, our Buddhist monks have made tremendous contributions in the field of national defense. Though they may not be the one to hold up weapons and fight they have been inexhaustible source of encouragement.
Some of our senior Buddhist monks have visited our soldiers at the front and the displaced people too. This is a symbol of inseparable relation among nation, religion and King. Once our nation is being infringed upon, impacts will be felt by our religion and the royal institution. Our monks brought with them foodstuff and utensils to the front.
On the 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee
As every knows already about what has happened in Paris concerning the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee, where we sent our Deputy Prime Minister, HE Sok An, and his team to attend. I wish to express my sincere thanks to HE Sok An, and the team for their efforts to achieve success of what Cambodia has to there. As you all know that the task was by far a difficult one as they had to confront Thai harsh opposition. However, we have come to a happening that is unpredictable.
I do not know why HE Abhisit and I are not in tune with one another. At the graduation of the University of Health Sciences, I warned Cambodian officials to be cautious while going to Thailand. They may need to have clearance and certain assurance before doing so as they could be arrested and used as a hostage to be traded for Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree here in the Prey Sar prison. Then the Thai Prime Minister said the Cambodian Prime Minister threatened to arrest Thai officials to be traded (with arrested Cambodian citizen). It was extremely opposite.
Prime Minister Abhisit, last Saturday, said more than one time that if UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee do not go Thai way, Thailand would withdraw from the WHC. This has been echoed by HE Suwit Khunkitti. Again, also on Saturday, they said it was Hun Sen matter to threaten with a withdrawal from the WHC. The Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers is drafting a response. As I went through the draft, HE Sok An called from Paris and told me that in Paris Thailand withdrew from the WHC. Well can you see how hypocritical this person! The fact is he is the one to withdraw but he shifted it on Hun Sen. I told the Quick Reaction Unit (at the Council of Ministers) to add that development on.
As a hosting nation of the temple of Preah Vihear, and various other temples, why on earth we withdraw from the WHC for that matter? Not only do I never say that but have never thought too. While some countries maintain only one embassy for two missions in France, Cambodia establishes two embassies – one for France and one for UNESCO. We have strengthened our leadership and partnership in UNESCO while making efforts to become a member of the WHC, where we were elected in 2009 in Spain. It should be noted that in 1962, when their legal attempt failed in the ICJ, they withdrew from it. Again, they do the same to WHC.
As is confirmed by several sources, Thai decision will enter into force only after presenting a formal letter requesting the official withdrawal of its membership and the process of considering so would not be less than twelve months. If Prime Minister Abhisit is really for what he had said, he should complete the rest of formal procedure for that matter. I am afraid he would not survive the next election as on last Saturday, the poll seemed to have suggested that Pheu Thai would win 211 against Democratic Party’s 140 in the parliament of 500 seats.
Now the issue is clearly seen by everyone that this group of (yellow shirt) Thais, which is one of a kind to the (current) Thai government, has the gut to chase the UNESCO’s office from Thailand and or to put pressure so the organization as such has to accept their agenda. If they could do so to such a prestigious international organization, what could not they do to smaller nation such as Cambodia?
I wish that ASEAN also sees this Thailand’s big country behavior as a cause for which the Indonesian observers could not establish their presence. There was a piece of anecdote that while walking out in rage from the meeting, the head of the Thai delegation said to one Ambassador present there that they would fight (Cambodia?) when they are back. I ordered our troops to review their position and situation. I also would warn the Thai military commanders not to build up border tension as a pretext to destroy the July 3 elections, which is only 6 days from today.
We also wish to urge that in case of Democratic Party’s defeat, no trick should be applied for conflict with Cambodia to reignite so as to prolong formation of the new government by winning party. Cambodia should not be caught as hostage of Thai politics. Cambodia wishes to see a free and fair election and every party must respect the results. If HE Abhisit is going to be reelected, I also have no choice but to go on working with him. However, his chance is so slim. In an interview (by Thai media) with people along the border, many said they wanted nothing but peace and the ability for the current Abhisit government to do so with Cambodia is not within its reach./.