From now on, organisers must arrange seating at events so that Buddhist monks sit higher than the people and the king, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Speaking at a Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, Mr Hun Sen called for greater respect of Buddhist monks, saying that they must sit at least 20 centimetres higher than the people at places and events attended by monks.
“The king’s seat is a bit lower than the Buddhist monks’ seats. I am sure the king himself is not jealous of that, given the king also worships the monks,” he said. “We do this to show our respect to the role of Buddhist monks in our society.
“The Ministry of Cults and Religion must issue instructions about the ceremonial way of arrangement to show greater respect to Buddhist monks, given the fact that Buddhism is the religion of the state as written in our constitution,” he added.
Khim Sorn, chief monk of Phnom Penh and chief of the secretariat of the Mohanikaya Monk Order, said it was appropriate because all countries that respected Buddhism, including both Myanmar and Thailand, always arranged it so monks sat higher than the people.
“It is very appropriate for Cambodia since we believe and respect Buddhism,” he said. “It is a very good idea and I completely support it.”
Ven Sorn added that previously, the Cults and Religion Ministry had sometimes forgotten to arrange seats for monks in this way at some official government ceremonies.
“I believe that when they arrange the monk’s seat higher than the people, it shows people’s respect and provides value for Buddhist monks,” he said.
Seng Somony, spokesman of the Cults and Religion Ministry, said the Prime Minister’s announcement would bring greater respect to Buddhist monks.
“His recommendation is correct,” Mr Somony said, adding the Ministry of Cults and Religion would hold a meeting with officials to further discuss the issue.
“I think next week we will hold a meeting with Buddhist monk officials to issue a statement to broadcast around the country,” he said.