Image of the Buddha on low currency banknote prompts protest in Cambodia

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It is reported in The Phnom Penh Post that a new low currency Cambodian banknote has caused protest from some Buddhist groups. A group of monks have suggested that the new 100 riel banknote, the smallest currency note worth about 2 cents, containing an image of the Buddha, is offensive to the Buddha.

Bo Samnang, chairman of National Culture and Morality Center commented:

‘A 100 riel note is the lowest currency in Cambodia and Buddha is of the highest status, higher than the royal king; this is unacceptable to have his photo on the currency.’

Venerable Lorm Loeum of Tomnak in Siem Reap suggested that:

‘This is awful, as normally people keep money in pockets and even their bras for women. This is very offensive to the Buddha. I urge the government to consider this and withdraw that Buddha picture from currency.’

Monks Not Behaving Politically in Cambodia

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My students and I do not participate in politics. They already have politicians, and what I am doing is following the Buddha’s advice.

These are the words of Meas Sokhorn head monk of a central Phnong Peng temple in Cambodia. They follow threats that two members of his monastic community, Manh Sokreal and Nob Vanny, will be disrobed for taking part in political activities. The two are said to have invited land protestors into the temple grounds. It raises important issues about monastic involvement in politics and the interpretation of an offense entailing expulsion (pārājika) from the Buddhist monastic community. It is not at all clear how political activity would fit into this category of actions.

This is the latest of a series of political involvement by Cambodian monks, as reported in The Phnong Peng Post:

Last month, armed police raided the Wat Neak Vorn pagoda in Tuol Kork district after some of its monks attended an opposition demonstration that descended into violence at Freedom Park, while a week ago more than 100 monks turned out to protest at Sansam Kosal pagoda in Meanchey district after a Khmer Krom monk who took part in recent protests outside the Vietnamese Embassy was called to a meeting with district religious authorities.