In an effort to standardise wedding rituals, Cambodia’s achars, or laymen who carry out Buddhist rites of passage, have been invited to a 10-day training course next month in the capital, the Ministry of Cults and Religion announced last week.
Seng Somony, the ministry’s spokesman, said yesterday the course was intended to guarantee that cultural practices are carried out in a similar manner across the country as a way to preserve them for future generations.
Referring to practices in some parts of the country in which the bride washes the feet of the groom, while in other areas “the bride is supposed to place the wedding garland on the groom”, Somony said that one practice will be formally agreed upon, although there will be no punishment for achars who do not follow the prescribed ritual.
Sambo Manara, a professor of Khmer Studies and Cambodian History at Pannasastra University, however, said that traditions are important because of their differences across regions.
“Each clergyman in different villages or provinces has their own unique habit,” he said.
However, the Venerable But Buntenh, founder of the Independent Monk Network, said the government has no place controlling the clergy’s rituals and views the training courses as politically motivated.
“At the end of the training course they have a representative from the Ministry of Cults and Religion saying, ‘We have only one party, it is the CPP party, and only Samdech … Hun Sen is Prime Minister.”
Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon