Guard of the monks at the riverside
There is a Western gentleman at the Phnom Penh riverside with a Buddhist monk aspect with whom I had a bitter discussion this Monday. I was a guest at the Colombian television channel, Teleantioquia, doing a documentary about my work in Cambodia since 1999. The journalists asked me to buy two birds and approach the river freeing them. As I walked with the two birds, I opened my hands and let the two little animals to escape to freedom over the high waters of the Basac River.
Suddenly this gentleman approached the journalists saying that they must ask permission from Buddhist monks to film them. Few meters from my place were two young monks that were, by the way, curious of my action.
As I realized this gentleman was confusing the scenery, thinking the journalists were filming the monks – and not me – I faced him.
– Yes, sir, what happens?
– You cannot film the monks without asking permission first – as I find his attitude too arrogant, I even didn’t think in correct his mistake and I chose to make a challenge.
– Who are you? – he avoids my looking – Are you a monk? – No answer – Are you the police? May we call the police?
The discussion continues for several minutes and he started to follow us until the van, so he wrote down the numbers of the car, an action that I saw as more than offensive. I went to take photos of him as well. He came to me and starts to bow down…
I wonder if this gentleman knows how to respect people and I wonder how many people he has disturbed already, by sure, foreign tourists. If he designated himself as a kind of guard of the monks, he does not respect also the tourists coming to admire Cambodia. A photographic or video camera is something attached to any tourists.
If this gentleman dreams to become a Buddhist monk, he must know first that Buddhist monks don’t behave like this. You don’t find monks preventing tourists from taking pictures. It is thus a big confusion of a fanatic coming to Cambodia to teach things instead to listen the real wisdom behind.
The Colombian television journalists went with me to several pagodas in Siem Reap, Kep, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh to talk with monks and they did not film monks without permission, so it was just ridiculous this man coming out of the blue to show up respect for the monks, an attitude more near to a fanatic sect than the real humbleness of Buddhism.
If it happens to you at the river side, I recommend you to contact any official of the Cambodian tourist police and just say that this gentleman is disturbing you.