Protesters Urge Peaceful Solution to Conflict

More than 100 people gathered in Phnom Penh Sunday morning to protest what they see as an impending war between the US and Afghanistan.

“The weapons will destroy the environment, the air we breath,” Church Relief Service Program Officer Chea Muoy Kry said.

The crowd, which included 25 monks, 16 nuns, and a dozen Westerners, met at the Pre-School Teachers’ Training Center on Norodom Boulevard near Mao Tse-tung Boulevard for a one-and-half hour ceremony, sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee Foundation.

“No violence should be used. No conflict can be settled by revenge,” monk Nhem Kimteng said.

More than 6,000 people are presumed dead after three separate hijacked passenger planes slammed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Passengers in a fourth plane rebelled against their captors, and the plane crashed in the US state of Pennsylvania.

It was the worst act of terrorism in world history, and US officials have said their prime suspect is Osama bin Laden, an extremist Saudi Arabian exile millionaire who has been sheltered by the ultra-fundamentalist Muslim Taliban militia. The US has threatened to attack Afghanistan if the Taliban, which controls most of the war-torn country, does not hand bin Laden over.

Protesters Sunday said they appreciated US rage over the attacks, but said acts of war will solve nothing.

“I don’t want to see more victims. The war will kill more people. There will be more amputees, and life will be valueless,” graduate student Chhiv Kim Srun, 21, said.

Luy Pagna, 19, a student at the Youth Resources Development Program, said the US has the right to pursue justice against the terrorists, but was afraid the US would use the attacks to wage long-term war against Afghanis­tan.

“We support America in fighting against terrorism, but they should solve the problem by peaceful means; otherwise, it will lead to a long war,” he said.

Some protesters said the war, and its affects, could spread worldwide.

“Many ants will die when two elephants fight each other,” Chhiv Kim Srun said.

Others said there were immediate concerns here in Cambodia.

“The economy is going down and it is hard to live in peace when the world has war,” Kandal province nun Ly Soeun, 61, said.

Khmer Institute for Democracy executive director Lao Mong Hay, who also attended the rally, said he had faith the US would bring the terrorists to justice without violence.

“The US should arrest the terrorist leaders and freeze the source of assets, but not lead into war for a long-term solution,” he said. “America is a powerful country. It has wisdom and maturity and past experience, they know war cannot solve problems. Ac­cording to the teachings of the Buddha, the word ‘war’ shouldn’t even be used.”

(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)


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