… Today, my family and I have great pleasures for being present in the inauguration of a great hall of common in the pagoda. Yesterday we had a religious rite to perform with the participation of Samdech patriarch and the Buddhist monks of all levels. We had the well wishing ceremony (krong pealy), the sermon recitation, the preaching of Dharma before we have this inauguration today. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Samdech patriarch, Samdech Podhivang, Samdech Preah Dhamalikhet, Samdech Preah Udom Charya and all the Buddhist monks for honoring my mother in law and the whole family. The religious rite was performed yesterday and today we have the inauguration itself to do. If we were to look to the backside of the compound, we could feel that it is as old as the Phnom Penh city itself. The city is now 570 years old but according to the publication in 1967 the pagoda is 568 years as it was built in 1437 under the reign of Ponnhea Yaat. It was first built in a different place but about 100 years ago (in 1892) the pagoda was relocated due to urban planning in those days. From 1910, the pagoda noted some major development under the Banha Nhean Vidhya Khan as the head monk.
… At the later stage, the pagoda made a great deal of progress because its location is not far from the Royal Palace. The Buddhist temple of Lanka was honored by the naming the Buddhist temple of Langka Preah Kosomaram by the Queen Preah Kosama Munnirath Sereiratana. Samdech Preah Dharma Likhet Lovea Em was once the head monk of the Buddhist temple of Lanka. The pagoda enjoyed support of His Majesty the Kings of all reigns up until 1960s, when it was bestowed with the above name and honor. I remember that when I first entered Phnom Penh I resided in a house not far from the pagoda of Lanka. There was an owl that used to fly from the Buddhist temple of Lanka to my house where there are two jackfruit trees. According to our tradition, we have to use salt in scaring away the owl, but we could not find salt for own consumption, how could we take salt to throw away to scare the owl? Later more Buddhist monks came residing in the pagoda and the owl seemed to have gone away.
… The pagoda had experienced three head monks already from Samdech Preah Bodhivang Nun Nget to the head monk Sun Khim and after his death in 2002, the head monk Sao Chanthol. Because of our efforts in the past under the leadership of the venerable monks in absence of working infrastructure, we have been able to put the pagoda in various development step after step. In the old days, when Samdech Heng Samrin was the President of the State Council, Samdech was the President of the National Assembly and the National United Front, and I was the Prime Minister, we used to bring up the subject of how long Buddhism will exist. Our discussion brought us to a conclusive answer that Buddhism will exist as long as the Buddhist followers believe. As long as they believe, Buddhism will exist. I think this is the best answer for a long time to come. Buddhism ceases to exist when people no longer believe in it. It is a short but succinct answer.
… In regard of the above statement concerning the existence of Buddhism, let us look at what happened under the Pol Pot regime. They claimed to have abolished religion, but indeed all they did was prohibiting people from practicing Buddhism in public, but people continue to nurture belief in their hearts. They destroyed pagodas, disrobed the monks, but in the end they could not remove religion from our people’s hearts. I was a pagoda boy and when I have difficulties I always ask for protection from the Buddha, the monks, my parents and my mentors. Now we have both in form and in content, the monks of all levels, schools of Buddhism in the medium and tertiary levels. Aside from these we have Samdech Ov (Preah Norodom Sihanouk) and Samdech Me (Queen Monineath Sihanouk), HM the King who are followers of Buddhism. So, asking how long Buddhism would exist will be responded with an answer that it will exist until it has no more followers. We are now at the Buddhist year of 2548 and I am glad that people give their trust in Buddhism which is the state religion. We now have up to 4000 Buddhist pagodas, and it is good if none of them involves in politics as doing so would end the trust of the Buddhist followers and they no longer come to the pagoda for religious rituals anymore.
… The day before, I watched the Bayon TV’s program “helping the miserable person,” who happened to be an old lady for whom my wife contributed a sum of 500,000 Riels and other utensils that cost in all approximately another 300,000 Riels, and my mother in law gave her the plastic tent for covering her roof. I was surprised to hear from her that she would contribute a part of what she has been given for the Buddhist ritual. It makes me think that nothing could obstruct the people’s belief in religion, and in this case the Buddhism, which is the religion of the state.
… Taking this opportune moment I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Samdech patriarch and venerable Buddhist monks for the leadership which brings about contribution to the secular world. My remark is that Buddhism shares its value in all national development – national security, social order and social development, economic development, etc. because it advise human being to do good things and to inflict no harms on others. This value is indispensable in the overall development of the country, through which progress will be made. Morality and virtue are the most essential elements in life, which are bestowed upon all Buddhist followers by the monks. Performing positive actions by the Buddhist followers will harmonize the social fabric in the secular world.
… I wish to also thank Samdech patriarch and head monk for the management and leadership at the Buddhist temple’s level for the support they have provided in time of difficulties. When we had natural calamity as the 2000, 2001 flooding, and the 2002 and 2004 droughts, the Buddhist monks proved to be key leading forces in mobilizing material and financial assistances and provided them to our people through HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. Those assistances were channeled to the vulnerable people in the district of Kroch Chhmar, Stoeung Trang of Kompong Cham and some to Prek Prosob of Kratie. It is a correlation of dependence between the two – people and the monks. Once people have sufficient food, the monk would have a good feast as well. On the contrary, when the people starved, the monk would not be in any better situation.
… Through Samdech patriarch, on behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to convey my sincere thanks and appreciations to the contribution made by all Buddhist pagodas in saving our people from damages of rice cultivation caused by general drought in 2004, through which efforts we have recovered about less than ten percent of the predicted loss of 20% from the whole figure of rice cultivation. Along with this, my deepest thanks also go to all the Buddhist monks who have provided assistance for the children who are in need of support for livelihood and study. The Buddhist temple is the most favorable place for children of the poor to reside in so that they could get both residence and food for the time of their study. Take for instance, in the Buddhist temple of Lanka we have about 244 such persons who are currently benefiting from the offer, and another 700 others in the Buddhist temple of Botum. I was a pagoda boy myself and I was brought up and educated with the help of the Buddhist temple. I wish to remind those who reside in the pagoda that the Buddhist temple is the place of serenity and they may wish to remember a recitation in my song “the Buddhist temple is in the path of Buddhism, I live and study, while serving the Buddhist monks before they go to bed, I would evade all karmas in the secular world.”
… Unfortunately we could accommodate only male students and could not do so for female ones. It is in an effort to redress the state of loss for female students, we have included in the action plan for the Ministry of Women Affairs the creation of student’s hostel in medium and high level of education. I am all ears and throw my support to this idea. I am very happy with the inauguration of the hall which is indeed the contribution of the Buddhist followers Bun Seang Ly and Hun Neang, my mother in law and my own father. Before passing away, my mother contributed to the construction of so many Buddhist temples in Kompong Speu, especially the Buddhist temple of Kdei Lovea. After her death my father continues what she had been doing in those days. My mother in law also does the same thing. My wife and I are following their will and help them contribute in the Buddhist achievement and development.
… Aside from inaugurating this great hall of residence, the venerable monk of the Buddhist temple of Lanka has also requested for one more construction and I approve his request. I think I should try to have the engineering team of the Ministry of National Defense help with the design blueprint and the construction. I hope that it is not weird to see soldiers in uniform building the pagodas. The most important thing here is to preserve peace and political stability. When the country is at war, even God could not help us and/or the monks. Let’s think about monks at war time and at peace time. At war no one could ever do or develop anything. When the country is in peace and peace is well strengthened, especially now that we have a determined cooperation between the two political Parties – the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec, stability will be preserved for the people. Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh, President of Funcinpec, the National Assembly and Special Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia discussed with me almost everyday on how to keep peace, political stability.
… Thanks to the strong determination of the two Parties – and coalition partners in the coalition Government, Samdech Krom Preah (Norodom Ranaridh), Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin and others have united for the sake of providing peace, stability to the country. There is nothing that we cannot do, as drop by drop the bucket is full. Take for instance we have hall of residence, hall of Dharma and in the future we will build something else. As for today I have brought here five sets of computers, printers, two copiers and a contribution of Riels 20 million for further refurbishment of the temple. I wish to recall also that I have contributed a sum of Riels 36 million for a year to the Faculty of Buddhism./.