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Pailin march presses ahead

Pailin march presses ahead

V ENERABLE spiritual leader Samdech Maha Ghosananda said the peace march to

Pailin will go ahead despite reports of renewed intense fighting in the area,

between government and Khmer Rouge soldiers.

Maha Ghosananda explained

Pailin is a terrible war torn place that needed peace when responding to

concerns the walkers could be caught in the fighting while traversing the

heavily mined region.

"Sometimes we are in fear, but later the fear is no

longer with us. We have to walk and spread our message of compassion, loving

kindness, and respect for human rights to all Cambodians who are the victims of

war."

An organizer of the walk, who declined to be named, told the Post

that on April 11 a mine accident occurred 13 km from Battambang on the intended

march route.

He said the mine, which killed one civilian and wounded two

others, was probably laid by the KR.

Maha Ghosananda, a nominee for the

1994 noble peace prize, said it is difficult to understand KR soldiers'

hearts.

"Sometimes, they use to accuse us of being against them. We asked

permission from their leader Kieu Samphan to pass through their controlled zone.

I hope they will cooperate with us."

On April 18 His Majesty King Norodom

Sihanouk issued a royal message to Maha Ghosananda: "The queen and I would like

to express our highest respects and profound admiration to you and all of the

monks, nuns and lay people and dear fellow compatriots who are

participating."

The march, called Dhammayietra in Khmer, departs from

Battambang province on 24 April and will travel along route 10 to Pailin, then

along the Thai border to Yeath Ath, Nimit, Sisophon, Thmar Pouk and

Samroung.

The march will finish one month later in Angkor Wat where

walkers will celebrate the highest holy day of Buddhism, Vesak Puja on May 24,

after their 430 km journey.

Thousands of people are expected to begin

the march and walk to a checkpoint 38 km from Battambang.

March

coordinator Venerable Kim Teng says only 500 specially selected people will be

allowed to continue the walk past this point due to logistics

problems.

He said: "We believe the KR will not make trouble for us

because our work is religious, neutral, without taking sides."

"We ask

all power-holders to soften their attitudes to each other and come together and

talk peace."

Walkers gathered in Phnom Penh on April 19 at Wat Sompou

Meas where monks blessed them and fans wished them well.

They took buses

to Battambang where they are being taught a three day training course in mine

awareness by a World Vision team.

Chea Dung, a 62 year old nun who came

from Prey Veng province to join previous peace walks, said: "I am very willing

to walk even though it is a long way because my family and many Cambodians have

been killed in war. We want to stop the fighting.

"We want to show the

people of the region the terrible reality of war and the beauty of love and

peace and we want them to understand our country. We are all Cambodian, we must

achieve peace through patience not fighting."

Dhammayietra has the

support of about 20 volunteer international organizations and local NGOs who

have offered transportation, food and supplies to the walkers.

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