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Maha Ghosananda and the 1989 Jakarta Peace Talks

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories highlighting the life of revered monk Maha Ghosananda, who died in a Massachusetts hospital March 12. Ghosananda was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his efforts to rebuild Cambodian Buddhism after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.]

The venerable monk Maha Ghosananda led a delegation to Jakarta in 1989, in an effort to help the peace process. Warring factions within Cambodia had agreed to meet in an effort to end civil war in the wake of Vietnam's withdrawal from the country.

Ghosananda had already been active in his pursuit of non-violent conflict resolution. He wanted to lead his delegation, which included the venerable monks Hok Savann, from Canada, and Touch Sarit, from France, to Indonesia to bless peace talks scheduled there.

The original plan was to bless all the delegates: Son Sann's People's National Liberation Front; Prince Norodom Ranariddh's royalists; the Khmer Rouge; and Hun Sen's beleaguered government.

The Indonesian's however, didn't believe this would work, the venerable monk Natha Pandito Rithipol told VOA recently.

The hosts thought that Hun Sen's delegation, aligned with the communists, would not accept a religious ceremony. They suggested instead that the monks sprinkle water on the chairs that would be used by the delegates later. The chairs would be blessed, and so would the talks, the Indonesians argued.

Ultimately, at the behest of King Norodom Sihanouk, Maha Ghosananda and his monks were allowed to sit with the king when each of the delegates came to present themselves. In this way, each of the four delegations, one after the other, bowed to the king—and to the monks.