More than 1,000 people marched Sunday through the capital to pray for peace following a bloody coup, while thousands of refugees driven to Thailand by factional warfare huddled under rain in muddy camps.
The marchers - monks, nuns and laymen led by the country’s Buddhist patriarch, Maha Ghosananda - hoped their trek from the Sampeau Meas pagoda to Independence Monument would help prevent a new civil war.
Ghosananda, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his annual peace marches in the mine-strewn countryside, led prayers asking that “peace prevail in Cambodia.”
Dressed in saffron and white robes, the monks and nuns clasped their hands in prayer as they wound through quiet streets closed to traffic. Many carried banners and lotus flowers.
In an apparent effort to capitalize on the march, several top officials from the party of Cambodian coup leader Hun Sen took part, including Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.
Hun Sen deposed his co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in a violent coup July 5 that triggered two days of pitched battles in the capital between their respective supporters.
Hun Sen’s superior forces have driven the prince’s troops to the Thai border to deprive them of territory before months of monsoon rains halt the fighting.
Thailand allowed 374 of Ranariddh’s defeated troops to cross the border Saturday after they endured a nightlong rocket and mortar barrage 25 miles north of a key border town, Poipet. They were disarmed by Thai soldiers.
The defeated troops Sunday were moved deeper inside Thailand, out of artillery range from across the border.