Cambodia-Sri Lanka ties strengthened | Sunday Observer

Cambodia-Sri Lanka ties strengthened

The friendly ties between Sri Lanka and Cambodia go back many centuries, with the earliest traces of religious relations going back to the beginning of the 6th century. Historians have pointed out that the Chulavamsa records that Cambodia and Sri Lanka had close political and cultural contacts in the 12th century.

Eminent historian Michael Wright, in a recent paper, listed several architectural evidences to show that the Sinhala form of Buddhism, reformed by King Parakramabahu I, and the Lankavamsa ordination may have arrived at Angkor during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

Wright suggests that from Angkor, the Lankavamsa spread north and west into what is now Thailand and Laos, carrying with it the Angkor prestige, sacred script and the cult of divine kingship. As testimony he cites that the Pali language was consistently written in Khmer script in the region for a long period of time. If Buddhism arrived in Thailand first, he argues that Pali would have been written either in Sinhala or Siamese script. He has pointed out that the RatanabimbaVamsa (History of the Emerald Buddha) claims that the Emerald Buddha image, the Thai national palladium came from Lanka, first to Angkor and only later travelled to Thailand and Laos.

A historian of repute, Dr Hema Goonatilake has stated in a recent article that the Buddha’s ashes brought from Sri Lanka by Achar Ong were enshrined in the main stupa of the Sangharaja’s monastery in WatUnnalom by King Norodom Sihanouk’s mother. The organization of this ceremony is recorded to be the most memorable merit making that King Norodom’s mother performed during her lifetime.

An inscription at the Bodhi tree at WatPrachumsakor in Phnom Penh, about a km from the royal palace, states that it was installed in the twentieth century and describes the mission sent by King Norodom to Sri Lanka as well as the return mission accompanied by the Sinhala monk Preah Ratanasara who brought a relic of the Buddha and a relic of AnandaThera and two saplings of the Sacred Mahabodhi tree.

Cambodia became a founder member of World Fellowship of Buddhists initiated by G. P. Malalasekera in June 1950. Cambodia was represented by the Sangharaja Chuon Nath of Maha Nikaya who was the greatest Cambodian Pali scholar in the recent past. Dr Goonatilake states that three Sri Lankan monks served as teachers in Pali institutes in Cambodia. The writing of Pali Grammar, instituting an annual research conference in the universities, and the initiation of a national level organization of Dasa Sil Mathas are among the other contributions made by the Sinhalese Buddhists to Cambodia. These religious interactions between Cambodia and Sri Lanka continued up to the 19th century, and still continue.

In this backdrop, President Maithripala Sirisena paid a successful state visit to Cambodia from August 7 to 11. King Norodom Sihamoni accorded a grand welcome to President Sirisena at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. King Norodom Sihamoni said Cambodia stands firmly with Sri Lanka in further cementing bilateral relations in economic, trade and social as well as the renaissance of Buddhism. He recalled the strong ties between the two countries and thanked the Sri Lankan leader for accepting the invitation to visit his country.

The King commended the progress achieved by Sri Lanka under the leadership of President Sirisena in the economic, trade, social and religious fields. He extended his gratitude for the assistance given by Sri Lanka to Cambodia in the educational sector including scholarships to Cambodian monks. Later President Sirisena visited the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh and paid a floral tribute to the statue of King-Father of Cambodia, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boronmeath Norodom Sihanouk.

On his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport President Sirisena was warmly welcomed by the Governor of the Siem Reap Province Tea Seiha and other senior officials.

Commencing his tour of the Park, the President first visited Angkor Wat, one of the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia and a UNESCO heritage site which contains magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th century. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. Deputy Prime Minister Samdech ChaufeaVeang Kong Som OI joined the President on the excursion.

President Sirisena held bilateral discussions with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday.

The Prime Minister recalled the strong religious and cultural ties between the two countries since ancient times, and discussed ways to enhance tourism and trade. Attention was also drawn on the possibility of establishing direct flights between Colombo and Phnom Penh. The leaders discussed signing an agreement on civil aviation and enhancing cooperation in the economic and trade sectors, the implementation of an educational and youth exchange program, inter-market opportunities and market advantages between the two countries.

Despite longstanding bilateral relations, embassies of the two countries have not been established, and it was agreed to take action to expedite the process. President Sirisena said he would instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to look into further improving diplomatic relations with Cambodia and establishing embassies. The Cambodian Prime Minister thanked the President for the facilities provided to the large number of Cambodian student Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka. He also expressed his condolences over the terrorist attack that Sri Lanka faced on April 21.

Following the meeting of the leaders, two new MoUs were signed between Sri Lanka and Cambodia. State Minister of External Affairs Wasantha Senanayake signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Political Consultation on behalf of Sri Lanka while the Foreign Secretary of Cambodia signed on behalf of the Government of Cambodia. The Chambers of Commerce of the two countries signed an agreement to establish a National Council of Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The President thanked the Cambodian King for the invitation to visit Cambodia, which marked a significant point in the friendship between Sri Lanka and Cambodia.