Cambodian Monks Get the Vote

November 29, 2006

Source: The Buddhist Channel,3470,0,0,1,0

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- Cambodian Buddhist monks have the right to vote in upcoming commune and national elections, acting head of state Chea Sim told a Buddhist congress in the capital Wednesday. His statement threatens to reignite a public debate which flared before the 2003 general elections when Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhists and leader of the Mahanikaya Buddhist sect in Cambodia, Tep Vong, declared monks should abstain from voting.

Chea Sim, who is also president of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and leader of the nation's Senate, told the 15th Annual Congress of Cambodian Buddhist Monks that monks have a perfect right to vote in a speech that also extolled them to use their social position to teach morality and promote social development.

"Cambodian Buddhist monks have the full right to vote," Chea Sim told around 500 senior Buddhist monks, officials, politicians and members of the country's Islamic community.

Although Cambodian monks have the constitutional right to vote, debate has raged about their role in politics and whether they should be above political opinions.