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Southeast Asian of the month for September

Samdech Sangha Raja Jhotañano Chuon Nath: the brilliant and supreme monk who wrote the lyrics of Cambodian national anthem and “Khmer legend,” an inspiration song and joined part in creation of Khmer first dictionary.


Samdech Chuon Nath was born on March 11, 1893 in Kompong Speu province. His family was of farmer class and had one younger brother. His education background started at the age of 12 when he was sent to a pagoda in Kandal province. Two years later, he is converted into a monk of that pagoda. In 1899, he was transferred to Wat U’naloum in Phnom Penh city for further education as a monk. He returned to his former pagoda at the age of 21 to become a complete monk. After that, he went back to Wat U’naloum and extend his education background. Nath was well known for the ability to speak many languages such as: Thai, Laotian, French, Vietnamese and English plus Pali and Sanskrit. His most recognized knowledge is on Pali.

He later joined the nationalism movement to conserve Khmer language against the increasingly mandatory French language. Due to the fact that Cambodia was put under French protectorate, the French government attempt to reform every sections of Cambodian administration, including the education division. However, as a head of a reformist movement in the Khmer Buddhist Sangha, he developed a rationalist-scholastic model of Buddhism, rooted in linguistic studies of the Pali Canon which influenced young Khmer monks in the early 20th century because of its cultivation onto Khmer language identity and culture.

Samdech Chuon Nath attended many mission abroad, such as to Lao, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Burma and Indonesia. He was appointed to many positions like senior head monk of U’naloum Pagoda, President of the upper sangha counsil, and head monitor to the publishing of study book on Khmer history. He also scored many national medallions for contributions honoured by the Samdech Norodom Shihanouk who was the head of the country of that time. Moreover, he helped raise fund to build bridges, roads, school and other construction throughout Cambodia.

His most accomplished achievements are the lyrics of “Nokoreach” Khmer national anthem, “Savada Khmer” a national song for motivation and Khmer language dictionary.

The lyrics of these two songs are listed below:

Savada Khmer

He died in September 25, 1969. His body was placed in the "Che-dey" in Wat U'naloum in Phnom Penh. Even he passed away for nearly 40 years now, his contributions are still sung in every Cambodian mouths.

Samdech Choun Nath is truly a noble man of Southeast Asia.

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