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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - March ends at Angkor

March ends at Angkor

T he ancient temples of Angkor Wat and the Bayon came alive last weekend with the

chanting and celebration of 800 monks and nuns in saffron and white robes

commemorating the end of the Dhamma Yietra march for peace and

reconciliation.

Some 1,200 marchers including lay people, local villagers

and two foreigners walked quietly, unheralded, into Siem Reap town on May 13 for

the ceremonies to mark the end of the march. While there were rumors of possible

Khmer Rouge attacks in the Siem Reap environs, the march concluded on a

much-appreciated peaceful note.

The shuffling of the marchers, thronged

feet was the only noise to announce the arrival of the procession in Siem Reap

town, marking the completion of a 175 km walk.

The hazards of the

procession claimed the lives of two marchers.

One monk and one nun were

killed when they were caught in crossfire between Khmer Rouge and government

soldiers in Bavel district in Battambang, five days after setting

out.

Another two people were injured in the attack. However, there were

no injuries from mines and major health problems were avoided.

"These

deaths increased the value of our message for both the government and the Khmer

Rouge," said the march leader, Supreme Patricarch Maha Ghosananda.

The

Nobel peace prize nominee told the Post he believed the march had achieved some

peace and reduced fighting a little, but said any long-term peace would only

come slowly.

"We aim at peace step by step, like breathing in and

breathing out, like walking, like the way we built this monument," he explained,

sitting at the foot of the central tower of Angkor Wat.

"The soldiers

want peace also. They're tired of fighting each other. They are Khmer fighting

Khmer, it's no good, they know," he added.

Maha Ghosananda said he would

lead a peace march every year from now on, even if the fighting ceased.

The marchers prepared for the final leg of their journey to Siem Reap in

a scene of idyllic peace on the banks of the Barai Tegtlar, a dam eight

kilometers north-west of Siem Reap town, picnicking, swimming and skylarking in

canoes and rubber tires.

As the saffron and white pilgrimage dotted with

golden banners and umbrellas and colourful Buddhist flags, wound its way from

the Barai through the forest and out on to Route 6, with the peaks of the

procession's Mecca, Angkor Wat, visible in the distance, villagers kneeled by

the roadside behind tables laden with water offering water from tables.

Leading monks threw water over women and girls who knelt with clasped

hands and bowed heads. The marchers were greeted at Wat Dam Nach in Siem Reap

town by Maha Ghosananda, who had gone ahead earlier, standing underneath a

double rainbow.

"But there's been no rain today. It must be a sign of

peace," exclaimed one nun.

Over the weekend the processions continued,

marching from the town, passed Angkor Wat, to the Bayon temple at Angkor

Thom.

On May 16 the marchers held a final closing ceremony immediately

beneath the central tower of the temple with multi-colored balloons and an

orchestra before loading into trucks to transport them back to their home

provinces.

For those left fighting, Maha Ghosananda said one thing must

be remembered: "Hatred is never ceased by hatred. Hatred is ceased by loving

kindness. This is the eternal law."

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