A Cambodian Buddhist leader who led a 500-kilometer reconciliation walk from Thailand
to Cambodia last April was awarded the 1992 Professor Thorolf Rafto Prize for Human
Rights on Nov. 4 in Bergen, Norway.
Maha Ghosananda-who fled to the United States in 1979-returned to Cambodia last spring
to lead the "Dhamma Yatra" walk, organized by the Thailand-based Coalition
for Peace and Reconciliation.
To the beat of a single drum, some 250 Buddhist monks, nuns, and layfollowers participated
in the one-month march from the frontier town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand to Phnom
Marchers came from Thai refugee camps and Cambodia, as well as Japan, Bangladesh,
the United States, France, and Australia.
Local villagers lined the road along the marchers' route in order to be sprinkled
with holy water by the monks, or to present the monks with food and offerings.
"The people in Cambodia are weeping from the past deaths and have sickness in
their brains," Ghosananda, 63, told the Phnom Penh Post when the marchers arrived
at Wat Butom in Phnom Penh. "The holy water is very helpful to them-it makes
them feel better."
Hanne Sophie Greve, a Norwegian judge who works in UNTAC's Civil Administration Component
in Phnom Penh, is a board member of the Thorolf Rafto Foundation for Human Rights.
"The award focused on the theme of reconciliation this year," said Greve,
who was not involved in this year's decision. "Reconciliation is not asking
people to forgive and forget-it's reinstalling people's human dignity. It's not a
hasty peace, but a process; a spiritual effort."
Other winners of the Thorolf Rafto Prize include Czech civil rights leader Jiri Hajek
(1987) and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (1990).