THIRTY-SIX monks have been ordained at Preah Vihear province’s Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, the pagoda along the Thai-Cambodian border that has been a flashpoint in the ongoing standoff between the two countries near Preah Vihear temple.
Huon Kea, director of Preah Vihear’s provincial cults and religions department, said yesterday that the ceremony, the pagoda’s first large-scale ordination, had gone off without incident.
“We had 36 men ordained as monks at the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda,” Huon Kea said. “This had nothing to do with politics – it is to serve the religious needs of our people and soldiers.”
Thai troops began their occupation of the pagoda in July of 2008, after Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia. This occupation has drawn the ire of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who in February publicly excoriated his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, over the matter.
“Abhisit, will you swear on having all your family members be killed in a plane crash ... that your soldiers did not come to invade Cambodia at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak?” Hun Sen said in a speech to troops in Oddar Meanchey province.
“Do you dare to swear on magic that could break your neck, on a plane crash or a dissolution of the countries, that your soldiers did not invade Cambodia’s territory on July 15, 2008?”
Huon Kea said Wednesday that the 10 Thai soldiers who currently occupy the pagoda had done nothing to disturb the ceremony.
“They just came to the place where they are stationed and stayed quiet,” Huon Kea said. Just four of the monks ordained on Tuesday will remain at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, Huon Kea added, and the rest will be stationed at other pagodas nearby.
Seven troops in total have been killed in skirmishes along the border near Preah Vihear temple. In January, troops from the two sides exchanged fire near the temple and the Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, though no one was hurt.
Yim Phim, the commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 8, said troops stationed at the border welcomed the ordination.
“The monks’ presence at the pagoda here is very useful for the nation,” Yim Phim said. “They are providing people with blessings and also identifying this place as Cambodian territory.”