Fearing that the "Voice of the People" might not be heard at the first
meeting of Cambodia's Constituent Assembly on Jun. 14, more than 500 Buddhist monks,
nuns, and representatives of the Cambodian NGO community converged peacefully on
Lenin Blvd. in an attempt to obtain observer status during the national lawmaking
body's opening session.
"Our purpose is to welcome the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly,"
said Sochua Leiper, one of the march organizers and executive director of Khmera.
"In doing so, we can help people learn more about politics, and not to give
everything to the politicians alone."
"We also want to present (the opinions) of different groups of people,"
she added. "The Assembly will draft laws for the whole nation and so the people
must explain their problems to the politicians so they can take them into consideration."
As the newly-elected lawmakers drove down Lenin Blvd to be dropped off in front of
the National Assembly building they passed a long line of monks and nuns bearing
banners with slogans such as "Solidarity is Power," "Cambodian Women
Support the New Constitution," and "Best Wishes To Our National Assembly."
Once the lawmakers had entered the Assembly, the marchers slowly converged on the
front gates of the building to present a request that they be granted observer status
during the meeting. The Venerable Maha Ghosananda, one of Cambodia's revered Buddhist
monks and the leader of the recent peace march from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, was
permitted to attend the inaugural session. But NGO workers were disappointed that
no one from their sector was allowed to enter.
"Our strategy is non-violence," said Leiper. "We want to tell the
politicians that we don't want anything else but peace, to tell them that the people
are fed up with war."
The monks led the crowd in several Buddhist chants while they waited under the hot
mid-morning sun. After the departure of HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk the marchers
dispersed quietly without incident.