6th November, 2008
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization
The Cambodian people will, on the 12th of November 2008, organise a Kathen ceremony (a religious fund raising event) in order to raise funds to support the Cambodian monks who reside in Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, near the Preah Vihear complex, during the rainy season.
While the Cambodian side plans to organise a Kathen for Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, the Thai side has also requested to organise their Kathen for this pagoda as well. Their request has been turned down because the Khmer officials use the reasons that if the Thai people want to make merits they should not have caused trouble with Cambodia. One other reason is that, according to Khmer traditions, each pagoda can only accept one Kathen in a year.
Government officials said that, on the 12th of November 2008, Gen. Hing Bunheang, Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, Mr. Sou Phirint, Governor of Siem Reap Province and Mr. Preap Tan, Governor of Preah Vihear Province, along with other government officials will march to Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak to take the money raised in a Kathen to give to the monks who reside in the pagoda. The Kathen was planned for 12th November, after Unesco had put up the Unesco signpost on the 7th of November.
At the same time as there is news that the Khmer side plans to organise a Kathen in Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, the Thai commanders had made a request to meet with the Cambodian commanders to seek permission to organise their Kathen for Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak on the 12th of November as well. According to sources, both Cambodian and Thai commanders have met but there were no decision made whether to allow the Thai side to organise a Kathen for the pagoda.
According to Cambodian military sources based in the Preah Vihear area, during the meeting, the Thai commanders promised that, during the Khmer Kathen, their troops will not be present near the pagoda. The same sources said that, from the 5th of November, Thai troops have already begun to withdraw gradually from the frontline. The sources said that, this withdrawal might be a ploy by Thailand to hide its troop presence from the Unesco officials when they come to put up a Unesco heritage signpost at the Preah Vihear temple on the 7th of November.
Mr. Khieu Kanharith, Cambodia’s Minister of Information and government spokesman, said that the decision whether to give the Thai side permission to organise a Kathen in the pagoda is not up to the local Cambodian military commanders, but it is the decision of the leaders of the Cambodian government.
Mr. Kanharith said that whether Cambodia grants permission for the Thai side to organise a Kathen or not is not important. The important thing is that, according to the Cambodian ancestral traditions, each pagoda can only accept one Kathen. Furthermore, Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak is not just an ordinary pagoda. It is a hotly contested and confrontational site where both Khmer and Thai soldiers are tensely facing each other. He added that, the Thai side has never thought of making merits in this temple in the past and if they wanted to make merits in this pagoda they would not have caused trouble for this temple until today. So, while the Thai side was the one who caused the present military standoff, a Thai Kathen for this pagoda would be meaningless.
Mr. Thun Saray, president of the human right organisation ADHOC said that, according to Khmer traditions, in one temple there can only be one Kathen in a year, so the abbot of Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda must inform the Thai side accordingly. Furthermore, the area is a Khmer territory, so before the Thai people can enter they must seek a permission from the Cambodian side. Mr. Thun Saray suspected that the Thai want to use a Kathen for this pagoda as a ploy (to allow Thai people to gain entry to the area).//