ODDAR MEANCHEY PROVINCE —
Around 200 people participated in a “peace walk” in the northern town of Anlong Veng on Friday.
The walk was part of a Buddhist ceremony and was held near the Thai border, where organizers say many Cambodian migrants have been shot and killed by Thai border patrols.
The walk marked Visak Bochea Day, an annual holiday celebrating the life, death and enlightenment of Buddha. It began at a pagoda in Anlong Veng, Oddar Meanchey province, at 8 am, with monks and other participants holding up banners for peace, religious flags and lotus flowers. The marchers walked about 2 kilometers to the Anlong Veng market, before returning to the pagoda.
Of the 200 marchers, not all were Buddhists. There were those who represented Islam, Christianity and Taosim, as well. Some came from Thailand, and at least two people were Chinese living in Cambodia.
“Because today is a holy day, Visak Bochea, our long-standing tradition is to pray for peace and harmony for everyone,” said Ye Yoeurn, 52, an Anlong Veng resident who joined the march.
Benjaporn Inngarm, a 28-year-old Thai marcher, said she and others from across the border had come to “share our solidarity, [to show] that we are neighboring countries and how we can make peace together.”
Lai Sarn, a 22-year-old Muslim from Cambodia, said she wanted to join a march in a non-Islamic ceremony to broaden peace among people of different faiths.
Participants not only walked together, but meditated and shared the views of their religions on peace and issues facing their communities.
The walk was put together by an organization called the Working Group for Peace, as well as one called the Thai Volunteer Service.
Bo Pao, a member of the Working Group for Peace, said Anlong Veng was chosen as the site of the march because there are frequently reported shootings of Cambodians who illegally cross into Thailand near here.
“We are celebrating the peace walk here to send a message to Thai border patrols, not to kill people, but to solve problems by legal means,” he said. “We are neighbors—and Buddhists.”