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    The suffering of Cambodia has been deep. From this suffering comes Great Compassion. Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart. ...

Sep 20, 2008

A Trip To a Religious Shrine in Cambodia

When the new Seven Wonders of the World were announced in July 2007, I was disappointed not to see Angkor Wat in that list. It raised questions in my mind about the selection process, which was based on voting through the Internet. That perhaps provided populous and resourceful countries like China, India, Brazil, Mexico and others an edge over small and poor Cambodia, where centuries of civil war and genocide has made the nation economically unstable.

However, the non-selection does not take the glory away from the grandeur of the Angkor temples; over a million tourists visit Cambodia every year to see them, and the numbers are increasing.

Today’s Cambodia is the successor state of the mighty Khmer empire which ruled much of present Vietnam, Laos and Thailand between the 9th and 14th centuries. Trade with India gave the Khmers their cultural contacts and the belief that the prosperity of the Indians was mainly due to protection from their gods. That inspired them to Hinduism and Buddhism and triggered the celebrated era of Indianised Khmer civilisation. They built their capital in Angkor, located in the country’s fertile northwest and utilised their wealth and vast labour force to build some of the world’s most outstanding temples dedicated to Hindu gods, mainly Shiva and Vishnu, which were later converted into Buddhist shrines.

The demise of the Khmer dynasty in the 15th century triggered the nation’s dark period, dominated by foreign invasions, French colonisation and civil wars, undoubtedly worst of the lot being the mass killings by communist leader Pol Pot in the 70s that ruined the state intellectually, socially and economically.

The situation stabilised only in the 1990s, when Cambodia sent an open invitation to the world to come and see their glorious past. The small laid-back town of Siem Reap became a hot spot as the gateway to Angkor where tourists rush to explore the ruins of over a thousand temples, which range in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble to architectural masterpieces. The most popular among them are Angkor Thom, Banteay Srey, Baphuon, Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm and the wondrous Angkor Wat which undoubtedly is the jewel in the crown.

Angkor Wat in Khmer meaning “City Temple” was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century as a Vishnu temple; in fact, the deity of the eight-armed God is seen today at the entrance, though in the 14th century it became a Buddhist shrine.

I had seen countless images of Angkor Wat before, but the first sight of the edifice crowned with five towers was spell-binding. It was just like viewing a giant picture post-card against the blue sky. It sparked in my mind a quote from the travel notes of French botanist Henry Mouhot, who in 1861 discovered this site cloaked in the jungles for centuries — “It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.”

The temple, structured on three levels, each comprising covered rectangular galleries, is built around open courtyards in diminishing size ultimately rising to the central tower. “There is a mythological significance about its construction. King Suryavarman designed this temple to represent Mount Meru, the abode of the gods in the Hindu religion. The towers at the top portray the mountain peaks; the outer walls, the moat and the open courtyards represent the mountains, oceans and the continents respectively, symbolising a long journey one has to undertake to reach the home of god.

The main shrine in the central tower at the top has four Buddha images. It is believed that the Vishnu statue at the entrance was housed there till Buddhism took over the holy place in the 14th century. The stairway to the central tower is very steep and sharply angled purposely, made that way to represent the enormous hardship required to touch the kingdom of gods. I felt short of courage to ascend through that route and offered my prayers to Lord Buddha from the lower end. The entire temple is full of carvings of apsaras, the celestial dancers.

There are almost 2,000 of them, in different styles and structure — young and old, lusty and modest, with exotic hairstyles, enigmatic expressions and lovingly carved jewellery. I saw some in mini skirts, which testified that showing pretty legs was trendy centuries ago as well.

Angkor became a world heritage site in 1992 and now an international committee has been established to oversee the planned restoration of these architectural wonders. The world has acknowledged Angkor icons as treasures of their own. As a result, several international agencies have come forward to work on the restorations.

While exploring Angkor, the province appeared to me severely underpopulated and I did not come across many people middle-aged and older. Ridh, our hotel receptionist in his mid-thirties, gave the clarification: “Pol Pot during the Khmer Rouge genocide wiped off a huge percentage of the Cambodian population. That included my father, elder brothers and uncles. We, the babies at that time, were fortunately left out and mainly constitute the country’s population today.”

There are a few who escaped death, but have lost their legs or arms in landmine explosions and I spotted some of them in groups around the Angkor temples, singing in a choir to attract tourist sympathy. They don’t beg, they are too proud to do so as they are the inheritors of these majestic temples, but their distressed faces say that they cannot live without external help.

Like them, most of the locals today consider Angkor an income-generating commodity — it is their lifeline. Being the gateway to Angkor, Seam Reap swarms with hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops — they have all mushroomed in the last five years in an effort to utilise the tourist boom to revamp the struggling economy. Even tourism from India is on the rise, and to complement that there are a few good Indian restaurants in town where the paper masala dosa and chicken biriyani is as good as what you can hope to get in Chennai or Bangalore.

Fact file

Singapore Airlines operates flights to Siem Reap via Singapore. Log on to www.singaporeairlines.com for more details. Getting around: Chauffer driven cars can be organised by the hotel for around $25 a day. Accommodation: Days Inn Angkor offers best value for money. Indian restaurants: New Delhi, Taj Mahal and Kamasutra in the Old Market area. Angkor complex is open daily from 5 am till 6.30 pm. Entry costs $20 for a day’s pass and $40 for a three day pass. One month tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at Siem Reap International Airport on payment of $20. Two copies of passport size photos are also required.—Sandip Hor is a Sydney-based freelance travel writer. E-mail: sandiphor@hotmail.com

Sep 19, 2008

Hinduism throbbing high in South East Asia-II

Sanskrit influence in Vietnam

By Ratnadeep Banerji

Cambodia or Kambodia is veritably the English transliteration of the French name Kambodge implying for Sanskrit Kamboja. The Funan kingdom existed in the 1st century BC as a pre-Angkor Indianised Khmer kingdom located around the Mekong Delta with its capital at Vyadhapura. Funanese culture was a blend of native beliefs and Indian ideas with Sanskrit as the court language. Funanese advocated Hinduism till the advent of Buddhism in the fifth century AD. Thus Funanese were the first in Cambodia to usher in Hinduism.

In ancient Sanskrit literature, there are references of Kambojas located in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The Kamboja transmigration from north-west India is a fascinating chapter recognised by most of the historians.

The Khmer empire in the Indochina archipelago was founded by Jayavarman-the-second of the Kambojas which went on to become the largest empire of south-east Asia. He had earlier been a resident at the court of Sailendra in Java and towed away the Hindu culture to Cambodia. In 802 AD he declared himself Chakravartin, commemorating a Hindu ritual taken from the Hindu tradition. He founded his new capital and named it Hariharalaya after the name Harihara, a Hindu deity prominent in pre-Angkorian Cambodia having Hari and Vishnu on opposite sides.

His successors went on to build several Hindu temples. Suryavarman the second went on to make what remains the largest temple complex in the world at Angkor Wat in the early 12th century AD.

Cambodia has one of the only two Brahma temples in the world. The empire’s official religions included Hinduism besides Mahayana Buddhism till the advent of Theravada Buddhism in the 13th century.

Myanmar erstwhile Burma
A paltry 2 per cent of the Burmese population amounting to 240,000 accounts for Hindus that too happen to be Burmese Indians. But Hinduism held a major sway over Burmese history and thereupon its literature. Yama Zatdaw is Burmese rendition of the Ramayana. The dominant ethnic group, Bamar living mostly in countryside follow Nat worship which has several adaptations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The Burmese God Thagyamin, King of the Nats rides a three-headed elephant is identified with Indra, the king of Hindu Gods. Burmese Buddhists are devouts of Thuyathadi, counterpart of Saraswati. As the Goddess of knowledge, She is avidly worshipped by students before examinations. Some other Gods are as well worshipped by Burmese Buddhists.

Burmese language as such contains plethora of loanwords from Sanskrit and Pali, many being connected with religion. In Burmese culture several Hindu traditions are still perceived especially on the Burmese New Year festival, Thingyan and also during weddings. Hinduism alongwith Buddhism greatly influenced the royal courts of Burmese monarchs including their formal royal titles. The coronation ceremonies were also Hindu in origin. The architecture seen at places like Bagan reflect profound Hindu influence.

The Khmer empire had a strong Hindu lineage. Thailand’s epic Ramkien is based on the Ramayana. The city Ayutthaya, capital of Ayutthaya province is named in remembrance of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama as in Thai Ramkien. Sadly in 1767 this city which was then among one of the world’s largest cities was razed down by the Burmese army, with only ruins left that has now been converted into a historical park and accorded a UNESCO heritage site. Several Brahminical rituals are still in vogue: use of holy strings and pouring of lustral water from conch shells. The well-known Erawan shrine has the idol of Phra Phrom, counterpart of Lord Brahma and statues of Ganesha, Indra and Shiva among other Hindu deities. Interestingly, Garuda stands insignia for the monarchy.

The kingdom of Champa was initially under the influence of Chinese culture. But from 4th century onwards when it took on Funan kingdom, Indian culture steadily kept creeping all throughout. This can be gauged from the fact that Champa was a confederation of five principalities— Indrapura, Amaravati, Vijaya, Kauthara and Panduranga each named after a historic region of India. Sanskrit was accorded a scholarly language and Shaivism became the state religion; Hinduism too getting a boost. This scenario remained until the 10th century when Arab maritime trade threw its Islamic mantle over Champa, then an important hub on the spice route.

From around the 4th century AD, royal temples started coming up in a valley two kilometers wide, mostly devoted to Shiva and also some to Vishnu and eventually grew to be one of the most prominent temple complexes of southeast Asia. My Son bears strong architectural resemblances with India. It had its own architectural template of that period now denoted by scholars as My Son E1 named after a particular edifice that stands emblematic of the birth of Brahma from a lotus issuing from the navel of sleeping Vishnu and the entire thing placed upon Shiva-linga serving as a pedestal. In 1969, The Vietnam War with American bombing did havoc to this temple complex. It has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Selected Site

It used to be a part of Khmer Empire. Phra Lak Phra Lam is the Laotian adaptation of Ramayana and is very similar to Ramakien in Thailand.

The Philippines
The chiefs of many Philippine islands were called Rajas until the advent of the Arabs in 1450. The prevalent script was derived from Brahmi. The vocabulary found in all Philippine languages bears a strong bond with Hinduism. Several statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses were hidden to prevent their destruction by Arabs and Spaniards. One such four-pound gold statue of Golden Tara, a Hindu-Malayan goddess was found in 1917 lying on the bank of Wawa River, projecting from the silt in ravine after a storm and flood. This 21 carat statue is dated from the period 1200s to early 1300s. Another gold artifact of Garuda was found at Palawan. Hinduism was deterred by Javanese missionaries spreading Islam and then kept at bay by the Spaniards spreading Christianity.

(To be continued)
(The author can be contacted at ratnaub@gmail.com)

Uninformed planning decision

I was shocked, saddened and embarrassed by the decision of the Planning Commission to deny Cambodian Buddhists a land use permit ("Temple loses bid for site to grow," Aug. 22, Page B-1) for a new Temple on Grimes Road despite the recommendation of its own staff and positive input from fire, police and transportation agencies. The Planning Commission was swayed by a well-organized group opposing the project.

It was painfully obvious from quotes in The Bee that opponents are uninformed, or have been misinformed, about daily activities at a Buddhist temple. Specifically:

- Fireworks and alcohol are never allowed anywhere on temple grounds on any occasion. Buddhists do not attend weekly worship services, hold weddings or receptions at their temple, or operate a "Sunday school."

- A Buddhist temple is a very quiet place. Individuals visit the temple seeking quiet refuge.

- Cambodians hold only two major festivals a year at their temple. These festivities are not loud, nor do they extend into the night. Inadequate parking facilities at their current location on Paradise Road have caused traffic congestion during past festivals. The Buddhist Temple has outgrown its location.

- The proposed new facility has ample off-street parking for these events. The proposed temple building is situated in the middle of a 12-acre site, far from surrounding roads and adjacent properties.

This shameful decision is a black eye for Stanislaus County and will be appealed. I urge those opposed to the project to make an effort to visit the site, inform yourselves and make up your own minds. If you meet these people face-to-face as I have you will find them kind, gentle and sincere.

All they are seeking is the freedom to peacefully and quietly practice their religion and serve the needs of our community.



Editor's note: The Stanislaus Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing on the Wat Cambodian Buddhist temple for 9:15 a.m. Sept. 30.

Original source

Sep 18, 2008



There was some inexpressibly cool and unhurried sense of peacefulness that exuded from the man. The year was 1997, November 5 to be exact. I was attending an inter-faith conference at a small town about an hour's drive from Phnom Penh. He was there among the crowds who came to give their blessing to the opening of the auspicious event. I felt something special about this frail but ever-smiling monk although I couldn't tell why. "Oh, that is Venerable Maha Ghosananda; he is very famous in Cambodia," whispered Buddhist scholar Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, urging me to interview him.

So I did. But as obliging as Maha Ghosananda was with a then green-horn journalist like me, I found it extremely difficult to write an article on him. He talked very little about his personal life, which Acharn Chatsumarn (who was later ordained as Bhikkhuni Dhammananda) said was so fascinating. Throughout the brief conversation I had with him, Maha Ghosananda would make extensive references to "dharma" - the importance of keeping oneself aware of the rising and ebbing away of mental phenomena, pleasant or not, how to constantly cultivate loving-kindness toward every sentient being, and last but not least, how not to cling to anything. I accept the truth of the adages, but they were, well, (given my ignorance at the time) hard to put in a newspaper.
The more I learned about Maha Ghosananda's biography and the tortuous history of Cambodia, the more I appreciate and marvel at his ability to remain unperturbed, so refreshingly serene in the midst of raging fires.
I would have the same question once raised by Benedictine monk James Wiseman: "Looking at the Venerable Ghosananda, one has the impression that not only his smile, but his whole body is radiant. It seems as if his skin has been washed so clean that it shines. One can only wonder what this man has seen, what he has experienced of the terrible killing fields in his home country (considering that all the members of Maha Ghosananda's family died under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot).
"One thing however is obvious: Whatever his experience has been, it has brought forth extraordinary growth in the spiritual life."
Of his early years, there is sketchy, rather scattered information. His date of birth varies - it was some time in the 1920s - depending on the source. It was reckoned, though, that Maha Ghosananda's potential may have been recognised not long after his ordination, for he came under the tutelage of Venerable Chuon Nath, later appointed to be the Supreme Patriarch and a key leader of the reformist movement in Cambodian Buddhism in the early 20th century.

In 1951, he left for a study at Nalanda University in India (where he would be eventually granted a PhD which he jokingly translated as "Person Has Dukkha" - suffering). Importantly, while in India, Maha Ghosananda had an opportunity to learn about the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence with Nichidatsu Fujii, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder of Nipponsan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order dedicated to world peace.
After his time in India, Maha Ghosananda reportedly travelled extensively to different temples throughout Asia, returned to Cambodia briefly before a long spell of residence in Thailand (the exact number of years is not known). It was said he studied Vipassana (insight) meditation with Ajahn Dhammadaro in Nakhon Si Thammarat, but an obituary written by his long-time friend Sulak Sivaraksa last year also mentioned reformist monk Buddhadasa as another mentor of Maha Ghosananda.
It was at this very juncture in Thailand where all the years of dharma practice came to fruition. At a forest monastery in the South, Maha Ghosananda heard news about the series of tragedies that beset his homeland: The American bombing raids, which dropped over 2.7 million tonnes of bombs and killed an estimated 600,000 Cambodians, the successive changes of regimes and ensuing bloodshed, the brutal genocide of the Khmer Rouge ...
A biography written by American monk Venerable Santidhammo described the tenacious struggle the Cambodian monk had to go through:
"He learned that his parents and all his brothers and sisters had been murdered. He was told, over time, of the death of many of his fellow monks and nuns. And of course, he said, he wept for so many losses. He wept for his country. He wept, he said, every day and could not stop weeping. But his teacher urged him to stop. Don't weep, he was told, Be mindful.
"Having mindfulness, his teacher said, is like knowing when to open and when to close your windows and doors. Mindfulness tells us when is the appropriate time to do things - you can't stop the fighting. Instead, fight your impulses toward sorrow and anger. Be mindful. Prepare for the day when you can truly be useful to your country. Stop weeping, and be mindful!"

We will never know how and for how long before the inner battle came to an end. By 1978, Maha Ghosananda embarked on a mission to bring peace to his fellow Cambodians. In an introduction to his only book, titled Step by Step - Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion, editors Jane Sharada Mahoney and Philip Edmonds related the monk's visit to a refugee camp in Sakeo. Amid the bleak and dilapidated atmosphere, Maha Ghosananda's presence was like a glowing candle that rekindled the spiritual warmth long suppressed by the protracted wars.
"In that moment," Mahoney and Edmonds write, "great suffering and great love merged. Centuries of Buddhist devotion rushed into the consciousness of the refugees. Waves of survivors fell to their knees and prostrated, wailing loudly, their cries reverberating throughout the camp. Many say that the Dharma, which had slept gently in their hearts as the Bodhi tree burned, was reawakened that day."
Maha Ghosananda himself would later stress the duty of socially-engaged Buddhists: "We must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettoes and the battlefields will then become our temples."
There is no discrimination either between ideologies or on the basis of past conflicts. Maha Ghosananda's temple huts catered to all refugees alike, including former Khmer Rouge soldiers. "We have great compassion for them because they do not know the truth," he later told film producer Alan Channer. "They suffer so much; they burn themselves. They want peace; they want happiness and Buddhism gives them peace and happiness.
"I do not question that loving one's oppressors - Cambodians loving the Khmer Rouge - may be the most difficult attitude to achieve. But it is a law of the universe that retaliation, hatred, and revenge only continue the cycle and never stop it. Reconciliation does not mean that we surrender rights and conditions, but rather that we use love in our negotiations. It means that we see ourselves in the opponent - for what is the opponent but a being in ignorance, and we ourselves are also ignorant of many things. Therefore, only loving-kindness and right mindfulness can free us."
It is a message that he would repeat the rest of his life. During the top-level talks between different Cambodian warring factions in France, Switzerland, and Indonesia, Maha Ghosananda led his contingency of monks, "the fifth army of peace", to open daily sessions with prayer and meditation; they implored the leaders to recall their Buddha nature, and reminded everyone of the power of non-violence. Sulak recalled the monk had personally asked him to seek holy water from the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Bowon Niwet in Bangkok to sprinkle on the Cambodian representatives - an initiative that was unanimously welcomed by all parties.
In her article on the dharmayietra movement in Cambodia, Kathryn Poethig wrote: "For Maha Ghosananda, the essence of Buddhist dharma is the practice of peacemaking. It requires skilful means, the ability to listen with compassion to the perspective of the one who has done you and others harm, and being mindful and selfless in negotiating a peaceful resolution to conflict."
Ingenuity and patience are certainly key. Maha Ghosananda often talked about how "wisdom and compassion must walk together. Having one without the other is like walking on one foot; you will fall. Balancing the two, you will walk very well, step by step."
In 1992, as the refugee camps were preparing to close with the planned repatriation of some 350,000 Cambodians, Maha Ghosananda and his friends from various faith groups launched the first dharmayietra. Over a hundred Cambodian refugees, escorted by international walkers including monks from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Japan, did the arduous 450km trek from the Thai borders back into their homeland. Every day, the returning Cambodians found their long-lost family members. By the time the band reached Phnom Penh, their number had swollen to more than a thousand.
The first few walks have been wrought with great difficulty. For the inaugural walk, most of the senior monks invited declined to join; it took a while to get permission from the Thai, Cambodian, and UN officials for the refugees to cross the borders. The subsequent ones fared no better; landmines and exchanges of gunshots and grenades between the Khmer Rouge and government troops were still the norm. During the third walk, in 1994, a skirmish caused by a misunderstanding ended with a monk and a nun killed, a few participants injured, and some taken hostage (though they were later released).
But the peace walkers did not waiver. For Maha Ghosananda, the dharmayietra was not a political demonstration - they discouraged any effort by public figures to co-opt the event - or a new innovation into Cambodian Buddhism. It was simply following the example of the Buddha, he cited, who long ago had walked right onto the battlefield in an effort to end a war and bring reconciliation to two hostile factions of his own clan.
The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.
In Venerable Santidhammo's biography, moving accounts of those who participated in the walks reveal the beauty of humanity, if given a chance to grow. The dharmayietra heralded the end of the war, reunited families, inspired new vision. A number called the experience Dhamma Teak Tong, or "Dhamma Contact". For at that very moment, all the boundaries melt; any notions of "us" versus "them" are tossed away.
One local woman said: "We Khmer haven't seen peace for so long. We've never known it. Now seeing the monks and all these people walking makes me think they've come to teach us to love one another, to unite. When I see them I feel speechless. Maybe we will have true peace after all."
Due to his fragile health, by 2000, Maha Ghosananda could no longer attend the dharmayietra walks, which have since been done on more localised scales, with the themes ranging from environmental to human rights, Aids, and youth issues. According to Peter Gyallay-Pap, founder and executive director of the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project (KEAP), the spirit of the monk has been carried on by his followers who seek "change in terms of actively following the middle path, not in social or political confrontation".
But will true transformation ever come? To Cambodia and the rest of the world? On the last page of his book Step by Step, Maha Ghosananda expressed his faith in the practice of mindfulness as "the only way to peace".
"Slowly, slowly, step by step," he urges. "Each step is a meditation. Each step is a prayer."
On March 12, 2007, Maha Ghosananda passed away at a temple in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the many sanctuaries he had built for his fellow Cambodians around the world.

Original source

Angkor Wat: scale and majesty

Queenstown-based Southland Times reporter Will Hine, working in Cambodia for three months, details what tourism means in a country bereft of bungy jumps, but teeming with temples.

Living in Queenstown, and for that matter New Zealand, it is easy to forget that tourism drawcards extend beyond untouched wilderness and adventure activities.

Indeed, the modus operandi of Southern Lakes operators — take money from person, make them scream, receive their thanks, move on to next person — seems quite bizarre when viewed from afar.

Here in Cambodia, tourism is temples. Specifically, the ancient temples of Angkor, which draw about 1 million people a year.

I became one of the horde (a hordee?) last weekend, when I visited Angkor, and the nearby city of Siam Reap.

A four-hour bus ride north-west of the capital Phnom Penh, the temples formed the heart of a Khmer empire which comprised 1 million people, and are spread over 700 square miles of jungle.

Actually, tropical forest might be a slightly more suitable description than jungle, but there are snakes, and I saw one, and it was thrilling, so it's jungle. Okay? The many hundreds of structures, some built 1200 years ago, range from small ruins to the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat.

Even today, in the age of malls and airports and the base building at Coronet Peak, Angkor Wat is large; back in the 12th century when it was constructed, it must have been gargantuan.

The wat's moat alone, 200m wide, puts those of medieval castles to shame, while its stone walls stretch for 3.6km.

However, the temple is not only notable for its scale; up close, the walls of the inner sanctum are decorated with intricate relief carvings which stretch for hundreds of metres.

Set in the middle of such sweeping grounds, and of a design which fails to age, the central temple has a presence and beauty that postcards cannot easily do justice to.

While a visit to Angkor Wat would be worth the effort alone, other temples at Angkor are just as mesmerising in their own ways.

At Ta Prohm, towering jungle engulfs the ancient ruins in enormous sinewy root systems.

Half of Japan rolled up in buses for a gander while I was visiting, and though the group was annoying with its incessant chatter and pushiness, it was easy to see what they had come for.

L IKE a sea of anacondas strangling their prey to death, a forest of trees ensnared the temple in a deathly vice over centuries of neglect, only to be rediscovered by explorers in the middle of the 19th century.

The effect is gob-smacking.

Indeed, so perfectly arranged are the vines, flying buttresses and temple masonry that a scene from the movie Tomb Raider was filmed there.

At another temple, Bayon, 216 large faces carved into 54 columns eerily peer down on visitors from all angles.

Angkor is not without its flaws.

There are large crowds throughout the year, but they can be avoided if a trip is well-planned and well-timed.

And for those less agile or brave, some of the temples will be inaccessible — near-vertical and uneven steps mean a foot out of place could easily result in a visit to the mortuary.

There are also large numbers of children hawking souvenirs and drinks, who border on being pushy, but a healthy dose of patience should be enough to survive them.

Pushing all that aside however, you would be hard-pushed to find a destination more extraordinary in its ambition, scale and majesty than Angkor.

For me, the visit delivered a realisation of sorts.

Queenstown should enjoy its years revelling in bungy jumping and jetboating and skiing, and appreciate its ephemeral popularity for what it is.

Because in 900 years, it will be but a speck in history, while Angkor and her temples continue to endure.

Original source

Peace Agreements Digital Collection: Cambodia

Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict

The States participating in the Paris Conference on Cambodia, namely Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the French Republic, the Republic of India, the Republic of Indonesia, Japan, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,

In the presence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations,

In order to maintain, preserve and defend the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality and national unity of Cambodia,

Desiring to restore and maintain peace in Cambodia, to promote national reconciliation and to ensure the exercise of the right to selfdetermination of the Cambodian people through free and fair elections,

Convinced that only a comprehensive political settlement to the Cambodia conflict will be just and durable and will contribute to regional and international peace and security,

Welcoming the Framework document of 28 August 1990, which was accepted by the Cambodian Parties in its entirety as the basis for settling the Cambodia conflict, and which was subsequently unanimously endorsed by Security Council resolution 668 (1990) of 20 September 1990 and General Assembly resolution 45/3 of 15 October 1990,

Noting the formation in Jakarta on 10 September 1990 of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia as the unique legitimate body and source of authority in Cambodia in which, throughout the transitional period, national sovereignty and unity are enshrined, and which represents Cambodia externally,

Welcoming the unanimous election, in Beijing on 17 July 1991, of H.R.H. Prince Norodom Sihanouk as the President of the Supreme National Council,

Recognizing that an enhanced United Nations role requires the establishment of a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) with civilian and military components, which will act with full respect for the national sovereignty of Cambodia,

Noting the statements made at the conclusion of the meetings held in Jakarta on 9-10 September 1990, in Paris on 21-23 December 1990, in Pattaya on 24-26 June 1991, in Beijing on 16-17 July 1991, in Pattaya on 26-29 August 1991, and also the meetings held in Jakarta on 4-6 June 1991 and in New York on 19 September 1991,

Welcoming United Nations Security Council resolution 717 (1991) of 16 October 1991 on Cambodia,

Recognizing that Cambodia's tragic recent history requires special measures to assure protection of human rights, and the non-return to the policies and practices of the past,

Have agreed as follows:

Part I . Arrangements During the Transitional Period

Section I: Transltlonal Period

Article 1
For the purposes of this Agreement, the transitional period shall commence with the entry into force of this Agreement and terminate when the constituent assembly elected through free and fair elections, organized and certified by the United Nations, has approved the constitution and transformed itself into a legislative assembly, and thereafter a new government has been created.

Section II: United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia

Article 2

  1. The Signatories invite the United Nations Security Council to establish a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (hereinafter referred to as "UNTAC") with civilian and military components under the direct responsibility of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. For this purpose the Secretary-General will designate a Special Representative to act on his behalf.

  2. The Signatories further invite the United Nations Security Council to provide UNTAC with the mandate set forth in this Agreement and to keep its implementation under continuing review through periodic reports submitted by the Secretary-General.

Section lll : Supreme National Council

Article 3
The Supreme National Council (hereinafter referred to as "the SNC") is the unique legitimate body and source of authority in which, throughout the transitional period, the sovereignty, independence and unity of Cambodia are enshrined.

Article 4
The members of the SNC shall be committed to the holding of free and fair elections organized and conducted by the United Nations as the basis for forming a new and legitimate Government.

Article 5
The SNC shall, throughout the transitional period, represent Cambodia externally and occupy the seat of Cambodia at the United Nations, in the United Nations specialized agencies, and in other international institutions and international conferences.

Article 6
The SNC hereby delegates to the United Nations all powers necessary to ensure the implementation of this Agreement, as described in annex 1.

In order to ensure a neutral political environment conducive to free and fair general elections, administrative agencies, bodies and offices which could directly influence the outcome of elections will be placed under direct United Nations supervision or control. In that context, special attention will be given to foreign affairs, national defence, finance, public security and information. To reflect the importance of these subjects, UNTAC needs to exercise such control as is necessary to ensure the strict neutrality of the bodies responsible for them. The United Nations, in consultation with the SNC, will identify which agencies, bodies and offices could continue to operate in order to ensure normal day-to-day life in the country.

Article 7
The relationship between the SNC, UNTAC and existing administrative structures is set forth in annex 1.

Section IV: Withdrawal of Foreign Forces and its Verification

Article 8
Immediately upon entry into force of this Agreement, any foreign forces, advisers, and military personnel remaining in Cambodia, together with their weapons, ammunition, and equipment, shall be withdrawn from Cambodia and not be returned. Such withdrawal and non-return will be subject to UNTAC verification in accordance with annex 2.

Section V: Cease-Fire and Cessation of Outside Military Assistance

Article 9
The cease-fire shall take effect at the time this Agreement enters into force. All forces shall immediately disengage and refrain from all hostilities and from any deployment, movement or action which would extend the territory they control or which might lead to renewed fighting.

The Signatories hereby invite the Security Council of the United Nations to request the Secretary-General to provide good offices to assist in this process until such time as the military component of UNTAC is in position to supervise, monitor and verify it.

Article 10
Upon entry into force of this Agreement, there shall be an immediate cessation of all outside military assistance to all Cambodian Parties.

Article 11
The objectives of military arrangements during the transitional period shall be to stabilize the security situation and build confidence among the parties to the conflict, so as to reinforce the purposes of this Agreement and to prevent the risks of a return to warfare.

Detailed provisions regarding UNTAC's supervision, monitoring, and verification of the cease-fire and related measures, including verification of the withdrawal of foreign forces and the regrouping, cantonment and ultimate disposition of all Cambodian forces and their weapons during the transitional period are set forth in annex 1, section C, and annex 2.

Part ll: Elections

Article 12
The Cambodian people shall have the right to determine their own political future through the free and fair election of a constituent assembly, which will draft and approve a new Cambodian Constitution in accordance with Article 23 and transform itself into a legislative assembly, which will create the new Cambodian Government. This election will be held under United Nations auspices in a neutral political environment with full respect for the national sovereignty of Cambodia.

Article 13
UNTAC shall be responsible for the organization and conduct of these elections based on the provisions of annex 1, section D, and annex 3.

Article 14
All Signatories commit themselves to respect the results of these elections once certified as free and fair by the United Nations.

Part lll: Human Rights

Article 15

  1. All persons in Cambodia and all Cambodian refugees and displaced persons shall enjoy the rights and freedoms embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments.

  2. To this end,

    1. Cambodia undertakes:

      • to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia;
      • to support the right of all Cambodian citizens to undertake activities which would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms;
      • to take effective measures to ensure that the policies and practices of the past shall never be allowed to return;
      • to adhere to relevant international human rights instruments;

    2. the other Signatories to this Agreement undertake to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia as embodied in the relevant international instruments and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, in order, in particular, to prevent the recurrence of human rights abuses.

Article 16
UNTAC shall be responsible during the transitional period for fostering an environment in which respect for human rights shall be ensured, based on the provisions of annex 1, section E.

Article 17
After the end of the transitional period, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in Cambodia, including, if necessary, by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur who would report his findings annually to the Commission and to the General Assembly.

Part lV: International Guarantees

Article 18
Cambodia undertakes to maintain, preserve and defend, and the other Signatories undertake to recognize and respect, the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality and national unity of Cambodia, as set forth in a separate Agreement.

Part V: Refugees and Displaced Persons

Article 19
Upon entry into force of this Agreement, every effort will be made to create in Cambodia political, economic and social conditions conducive to the voluntary return and harmonious integration of Cambodian refugees and displaced persons.

Article 20

    1) Cambodian refugees and displaced persons, located outside Cambodia, shall have the right to return to Cambodia and to live in safety, security and dignity, free from intimidation or coercion of any kind.

    2) The Signatories request the Secretary-General of the United Nations to facilitate the repatriation in safety and dignity of Cambodian refugees and displaced persons, as an integral part of the comprehensive political settlement and under the overall authority of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in accordance with the guidelines and principles on the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons as set forth in annex 4.
Part Vl . Release of Prisoners of War And Civilian Internees

Article 21
The release of all prisoners of war and civilian internees shall be accomplished at the earliest possible date under the direction of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in coordination with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, with the assistance, as necessary, of other appropriate international humanitarian organizations and the Signatories.

Article 22
The expression "civilian internees" refers to all persons who are not prisoners of war and who, having contributed in any way whatsoever to the armed or political struggle, have been arrested or detained by any of the parties by virtue of their contribution thereto.

Part Vll: Principles for a New Constitution for Cambodia

Article 23
Basic principles, including those regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as regarding Cambodia's status of neutrality, which the new Cambodian Constitution will incorporate, are set forth in annex 5.

Part Vlll: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Article 24
The Signatories urge the international community to provide economic and financial support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Cambodia, as provided in a separate declaration.

Part IX: Final Provisions

Article 25
The Signatories shall, in good faith and in a spirit of cooperation, resolve through peaceful means any disputes with respect to the implementation of this Agreement.

Article 26
The Signatories request other States, international organizations and other bodies to cooperate and assist in the implementation of this Agreement and in the fulfilment by UNTAC of its mandate.

Article 27
The Signatories shall provide their full cooperation to the United Nations to ensure the implementation of its mandate, including by the provision of privileges and immunities, and by facilitating freedom of movement and communication within and through their respective territories.

In carrying out its mandate, UNTAC shall exercise due respect for the sovereignty of all States neighbouring Cambodia.

Article 28

  1. The Signatories shall comply in good faith with all obligations undertaken in this Agreement and shall extend full cooperation to the United Nations, including the provision of the information which UNTAC requires in the fulfilment of its mandate.

  2. The signature on behalf of Cambodia by the members of the SNC shall commit all Cambodian parties and armed forces to the provisions of this Agreement.

Article 29
Without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Security Council of the United Nations, and upon the request of the Secretary-General, the two co Chairmen of the Paris Conference on Cambodia, in the event of a violation or threat of violation of this Agreement, will immediately undertake appropriate consultations, including with members of the Paris Conference on Cambodia, with a view to taking appropriate steps to ensure respect for these commitments.

Article 30
This Agreement shall enter into force upon signature.

Article 31
This Agreement shall remain open for accession by all States. The instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments of the French Republic and the Republic of Indonesia. For each State acceding to the Agreement it shall enter into force on the date of deposit of its instruments of accession. Acceding States shall be bound by the same obligations as the Signatories.

Article 32
The originals of this Agreement, of which the Chinese, English, French, Khmer and Russian texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Governments of the French Republic and the Republic of Indonesia, which shall transmit certified true copies to the Governments of the other States participating in the Paris Conference on Cambodia, as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In witness whereof the undersigned Plenipotentiaries, being duly authorized thereto, have signed this Agreement.

Done at Paris this twenty-third day of October, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-one.

Original Source

Khmer Empire

Cambodia Timeline
  • AD100 - AD600: The Kingdom of Funan that rules over a vast land of Indo China and part of now South East Asia covers part of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the whole Cambodia.
  • AD600 - AD800: The Kingdom of Chenla still rules part of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the whole Cambodia.
  • AD800 - AD 1400: The Kingdom and Khmer Empire. The Kingdom starts to crumble thereafter AD 800. The peripheral areas of the Kingdom falls into the hands of the Thais invading from the West and the North and the Vietnamese from the East.
  • AD1400 - 1860: The erosion of the Khmer Empire. More and more peripheral lands are occupied by the Thais and the Vietnamese.
  • 1860 - 1953: The French colonize Indochina and rule Cambodia as protectorate.
  • 1953: Cambodia gains independence from France.
  • 1975: Cambodia falls into Communism ruled by Khmer Rouge supported by China
  • 1979: Cambodia is invaded by Vietnamese that in turn drive Khmer Rouge regime out of power.
  • 1991: Cambodia holds a democratic election administered by the United Nations.
The Rise and the Fall of Angkor
  • AD900 - AD1200: The development of the City of Angkor
  • AD1200 - AD1400: The Decline of Angkor and Khmer Empire
  • AD1400 - 1860: The Khmer Empire is in disarray. The peripheral land of the empire is lost to the invading Thais from the West and the Vietnamese from the East.

Angkor Wat temple: Built in 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II (1112-1150), dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. Angkor Wat temple is the main feature of Cambodia tourism, the all-time visited temple among hundreds of Khmer temple ruins.

Angkor, the capital of Khmer empire from 9th to 13th century, ruled a vast territory that is now Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. During these periods, the Khmers build hundreds of temples and Buddhist monasteries through out Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Despite of Angkor temples are seen sprawling over the hundreds of historical sites in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, the main temples featuring Angkor civilization and political culture involving administration and power are located in Siem Reap province. These temple ruins converge in an area of 400 square kilometers just north of Siem Reap town and Tonley Sap lake.

The Decline of Khmer Kingdom Power
Angkor began in 819 A.D. when King Jayavarman II (802-850) moved a Khmer settlement to Siem Reap province and the settlement became an administrative centre of Khmer empire. During the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113-1150), in which Angkor Wat temple was built, the Chams from Champa from the East (now Vietnam) began armed incursions and sacked Angkor. Following the death of King Suryavarman II and the Cham invasion, Angkor is invaded and ransacked by the Thais, based in western part of the Khmer Empire. These Thai army forces had been employed by the Khmer King to repel the Cham invaders. Thereafter, again and again, the Chams and the Thais invaded and ransacked Angkor.

King Jayavarman VII (1181-1215) who built Angkor Thom fought and repelled the invading Chams and the Thais. The glory of Khmers and Angkor was again restored but the it was short lived. The Empire began to crumble after the death of King Jayavarman VII. The Thais from the west and the invaders from the East, this time the Vietnamese, frequently carried out armed incursions and invaded Angkor and the Khmer Empire's peripheral territory was gradually lost. After the capture of Angkor by the Thais in 1431, Khmers moved their capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh leaving Angkor unoccupied to the mercy of the jungles. From the early 15th century until the late 19th century, the Buddhist monks lived in Angkor and made Angkor the largest religious pilgrimage site in South East Asia.

The Angkor Restoration
The loss of Khmer territory continued until 1863 when France established a colonial regime that ruled Cambodia until 1953. Angkor ruins were discovered by a French researcher in 1920 and thereafter a comprehensive program of Angkor restoration and archeological research sponsored by the French government began. The restoration program was halted in late 1960's during a political upheaval and civil war in Cambodia. During the war, Angkor suffered heavy damages and wide-spread lootings. The temples, artifacts, statues, and other sculptures were either broken or stolen.

The civil war eventually ended in early 1990's and the restoration program of Angkor re-started. This time, the program is sponsored by an international agency UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). Angkor is again opened to the world. Now streams of visitors from around the world are irresistibly drawn to this great city of Angkor ruins to marvel its breathtaking beauty.

Reigns of Khmer Kings: 8th century to early 14th century
King Reign
Jayavarman II 802-850
Jayavarman III 850-877
Indravarman I 877-889
Yasovarman I 889-910
Harshvarman I 910-923
Isanavarman II 923-928
Jayavarman IV 928-942
Harshavarman II 942-944
Rejendravarman 944-968
Jayavarman V 968-1001
Udayadityavarman 1001-1002
Suryavarman I 1002-1050
Udayadityavar II 1050-1066
Harshavarman III 1066-1080
Jayavarman VI 1080-1108
Dharanindravarman I 1180-1112
Suryavarman II 1112-1150
Dharanindravarmen II 1150-1181
Jayavarman VII 1180-1220
Indarvarman II 1220-1243
Jayavarmand VIII 1243-1295
Indravarman III 1295-1308

Source and reference: Encyclopedia Americana 2002 edition, the World Book Encyclopedia 1999 edition, the Hidden Glories (1990) by Michael Freeman & Roger Warner, Cambodia Handbook 1997 by John Colet & Joshua Eliot, Indochina: Social and Cultural Change 1994 by David W.P. Elliott, the World Book Encyclopedia 1999 edition, Wikipedia Media Encyclopedia.

Sep 16, 2008

Khmer Dictionary of Samdech Chuon Nath Jottannano