Pagoda Gets Big Thai Gift

The Thai government Sunday delivered a $13,000 donation to Phnom Penh’s oldest pagoda.

The Thais made the donation Sunday morning during a Kathen ceremony, a Buddhist fund-raiser, at Wat Ounalom.

“We are Buddhists, and the main strong goal for our people is to contact and improve relations at the grass-roots level,” Thailand Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vikrom Koompirochana said during the ceremony at the 15th century pagoda.

The Thais raised the funds through their King, their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the expa­tri­ate Thai community in Cambo­dia.

Thailand and Cambodia were rivals for centuries. Relations took another downturn during the war in Vietnam, when Thailand sided with the US, providing air bases and tactical support.

Sunday’s donation is a symbol of a warmer relationship, Vikrom Koompirochana said.

“We have enjoyed a very good relationship. Our prime minister and minister of foreign affairs just came,” he said, referring to the recent visit by Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the third child of Thailand’s king and queen, is scheduled to make another visit to Angkor Wat Friday for a weekend tour, Thai officials said.

“Our Princess Sirindhorn has visited Cambodia many times because she is interested in the history and culture,” Vikrom said. It will be her fourth trip to Cambo­dia this year.

Wat Ounalom was founded in 1443 when the Khmer Empire, chased out of Angkor by the Siamese, established their new capital in Phnom Penh.

The donation will be a great help in keeping up the aging pagoda, said 80-year-old monk’s assistant Ouch Am. The grounds now consist of 44 buildings, accomodating nearly 600 monks, he said.

Ouch Am said he was glad to have the donation from the Thais, des­pite the sometimes rocky history between the two countries.

“We welcome all religious contributions,” he said. “Our religion is the same, and we don’t have any religious conflicts.”


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