Intra-Buddhist and Interfaith Dialogue “Peace among Thais and Cambodians”

Buddhist Meeting on Cambodia-Thailand Border dispute

Religions for Peace in cooperation with Mahidol University, and Interfaith Cooperation Forum organised an Intra-Buddhist and Inter-faith dialogue on “Peace among Thai and Cambodian”.

The purpose of this dialogue was to forge collaborative effort for peace and issue a joint statement on the role of religious communities in resolving conflict and advancing peace. This was expected to encourage some Thai and Cambodian people in the border conflict areas to enter into dialogue of life for peace and justice, to enhance the role of Religions for Peace – Inter Religious Council of Thailand and Cambodia in building understanding, trust and peace through dialogue and to initiate a joint-declaration that calls for further peace talks at the level of the government.

Since 2008 until now, Thai-Cambodian border dispute has caused suffering due to the loss of lives and damage of houses, temples and properties. Above all, it destroys the trust and friendship between the two nations. It is believed that the religious andspiritual dimension can take part and play a vital role for peace through the process of dialogue.

Dialogue is not simply bilateral talks but consists essentially of deep listening through which people could translate teachings of their own religion into practice with loving kindness and empathy, without pre-judgment. Through the process of deep listening in dialogue, people will be able to have a chance to learn different feelings, desires and reasons, and may grow and experience the commonality of human beings’ need and security.

Dialogue may change the feeling of suspicion, bias and lack of trust into a better and mutual understanding. Using dialogue, people in general and religious communities in particular, may find alternative and possible solutions for peace building. Inter-Buddhist and inter-faith dialogue on Thai-Cambodia peace will be a starting point that may eventually lead to sustainable peace talks and constructive dialogue at the level of the governments.

Intr-Buddhist and Interfaith meet for peace among Thai and Cambodian Peoples

Cambodian and Thai people representing different religious traditions, through Religions for Peace, proffer the following recommendations:

  1. May this Intra-Buddhist and Inter-Faith Dialogue on Peace among Thais and Cambodians be the starting point for further dialogues between religious leaders and people in order to restore sustainable peace. The conflicts over religious places should be transformed by rendering it a place for forgiveness (apai-dana) and a zone of nonviolence to which everyone could pay respects and visit.
  2. All parties including media should listen to the voices of people who call for peace and justice, not violence. Leaders and media should try to proceed by all means to nurture mutual understanding, to cultivate their own inner peace and to use history not to spread hatred but to improve relationship.
  3. May Thai and Cambodian governments engage in genuine dialogue and remain steadfast to religious teachings such as truth , tolerance, compassion, treating each other as friends not enemies and always acting for the benefit of the people. Instead of using violence to settle territorial conflict, both countries should try to apply the principle of joint development to areas that are under dispute. This could be done through negotiation, be it bilateral or within the ASEAN frame-work.

At the end of dialogue, there were some reflections from Cambodian participants:

We need the organizers to clarify the highlight points above (number 1 & 3) because this statement was written and presented in Thai language. The Cambodian participants couldn’t understand it. We agreed that the religious place should be a place for forgiveness and a zone of nonviolence which everyone could pay respect and visit. The clarification is just to make sure that this temple is in Cambodian side, not between these two countries or on border line. This can be said as the border conflict but not the conflict to control over the temples. This temple is the world heritage where all the people in the world have to protect and should come to pay respect. We would like to ask the public opinions to observe carefully and find more information about the background of this conflict before giving any comment about an on-going solution. Also, compromises sometimes make one side lose.

The Cambodian participants were not religious leaders. They are the normal/grass-root community religious people. So we were not able to talk about the border conflict. That was over our capacities and limitation. What we can do is to promote peace among the people, to teach our people to share, to love and to live together as friends and brother and sister.

It was so impressive to hear the voice and need of people living in war affected-area in both side rather than the academic discussion.

This is the historical conflict which deep-seated in the feeling and mind of both side people. So we also need long time for this peace process to build a good relationship and friendship among the people as well as diplomacy even after the violent war end any time in future. This peace process cannot be achieved in only one single day.

Source: ACT Cambodia

Photo Credits: Alliance for Conflict Transformation