Paper Money

Monks complain about Buddha image on new Cambodian notes

The new Cambodian 100-riel notes had  only been in circulation since Jan. 14, 2015, when within a week complaints started coming into the National Bank of Cambodia.

The face of the notes depicts a vignette of Buddha and a portrait of former King Norodom Sihanouk as a young monk. 

The back features a vignette of the Silver Pagoda of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and a statue of Buddha. 

According to a news article published in the Jan. 19 issue of The Phnom Penh Post online,, a group of monks have asked National Bank of Cambodia officials to scrap the notes because they consider the depiction of the Buddha on the lowest denomination offensive.

“Association of Life and Hope’s Venerable Lorm Loeum, based at Wat Tomnak pagoda in Siem Reap, echoed the sentiment, saying he was concerned about how the bills would be treated,” according to the newspaper article.

Loeum was quoted in The Phnom Penh Post article as saying: “This is awful, as normally people keep money in pockets and even their bras for women. This is very offensive to the Buddha. I urge the government to consider this and withdraw that Buddha picture from currency.”

There has been no response from the bank as yet and the notes continue to circulate throughout the country, according to the article. 

Complaining universal

Public outrage about designs on paper money isn’t limited to just this recent issue in Cambodia. A series of paper notes issued 60 years ago in Canada also raised public ire.

The short-lived 1954 Canadian note variety known as the “devil’s face” series, featured a portrait vignette of Queen Elizabeth II with a hair styling that creates a sinister-looking face within the queen’s hair. 

The vignette used on the note was based on a photograph of the young queen by famed photographer Yousuf Karsh. When the design was engraved, an apparently random mixture of light and shadow elements in her hair formed a face-like appearance. 

All denominations in the series were printed with this image.  

Darkening some of the highlights in the hair removed elements that had generated the so-called devil’s face. 

Because of the change in the design, the “Devil’s Face” series of notes usually attracts attention at auction.

A rare set of 1954 “Devil’s Face” specimen notes was sold at auction for $16,000 Jan. 13, 2014, by Stack’s Bowers Galleries during the New York International Numismatic Convention Jan. 9 to 12, 2014, in New York City.

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