Cambodia-Thailand border (May 17, 2011):

AFSC Cambodia staff joined partners from these two Buddhist nations in organizing a cross-border ‘Walk for Peace’ to mark Visakha Puja Day, the day commemorating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away.

Since 2008, Thailand and Cambodia have been in a military stand-off over their border dispute around the Preah Vihear temple, where recent outbreaks of violence killed 18 people and sent 40,000 people fleeing from their homes.   AFSC has been working closely with Thai and Cambodian partners to counter nationalist fever and build a constituency for peace.  

Around 200 Cambodian monks, villagers and peace activists marched 22 kilometers to the border, led by veteran Cambodian monk Venerable Yos Hut.  Only a small group of 23 Cambodians – those with passports – were allowed to cross the border, where they were greeted by a delegation of around 200 Thais, led by Acharn Sulak Sivaraksa, a leader of the Engaged Buddhist movement.   The Thais had marched for five hours from a pagoda on the outskirts of Ayanyaprathet town to greet their Cambodian neighbors.  As reported by the Prachatai News Service, the march also included representatives from Laos, Burma, Japan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia and Greece.

AFSC’s Cambodian Program Officer, Chhit Muny, explains, “The majority of Cambodians and Thais are Buddhist, so we decided to call for peace on Visakha Puja day.”

For the marchers, this was not simply a peace march, but a ‘Dhammayietra’ (or ‘Dharma Yatra’ in Thai).  As Acharn Sulak Sivaraksa explains in a Bangkok Post video, “It is a spiritual walk, based on the way Lord Buddha walked.”  The marchers believe that dharma, or Buddhist teachings, can bring a peaceful solution to the border conflict.

“Buddhism doesn’t support wars and violence” Cambodian peace marcher Sek Sarom told the Bangkok Post.  “Lord Buddha tried to put an end to any kind of violence.”