Cambodia: Case Study in Religion and Peacebuilding Case Study

The history of Cambodia is closely associated with the intensive interaction of such important forces as the opposed political parties, influential external actors, and significant religious groups.

The development of the nation in Cambodia directly depends on the relations of religion and politics in the country.

From this point, it is important to focus on the effective peacebuilding activities and practices based on the religious principles and realized in Cambodia in order to regulate political conflicts in 1993 and 1998.

Referring to the historic events, it is possible to state that religion is closely connected with politics in Cambodia in spite of the followed principles of the religious neutrality.

Thus, Buddhism is the national religion in Cambodia, and the Buddhist monks played an important role in the political conflict regulation in 1993 and 1998 in spite of the stated ideas of neutrality and non-partisan roles.

The Discussion of the Conflicts and the Timelines

Before 1993, Cambodia was divided into two political factions that were in a constant developing conflict during a long period of time, without proposing any possible solutions.

In addition, the Buddhist religious groups were inclined to preach peace and reconciliation as a way of diverting people’s attention from the political issues to the idea of the nation-building.

The important events occurred in 1993 when the political coalition was organized as a result of the UNTAC activities and the 1993 elections. Cambodia has gained the political stability.

However, the fragile coalition could not develop during a long period of time, and the year of 1997 was characterized by the examples of significant military violence.

The tense situation in the country’s politics found its resolution in the elections of 1998 which aimed to promote the political stability in the country, but they also led to the post-elections conflicts (Morris 193-194).

Thus, the timeline of the political conflicts in Cambodia includes several important dates which are the period of the elections in 1993, the military conflicts in 1997, the elections of 1998, and the post-elections conflicts.

In spite of the fact that these conflicts were rather similar in their ideas, they differ significantly in relation to the role of Buddhist clergy and monks in these conflicts.

Thus, if the Buddhist clergy focused on the peace walks as the main method to predict and resolve the conflicts in 1993, the Buddhist monks joined the opposition demonstrations in 1998, and they were actively involved in the post-election conflicts.

Key Actors in the Cambodian Conflicts

It is possible to determine three key actors of the Cambodian conflicts in 1993 and 1998.

These actors as the opposite political forces struggling for the political dominance in the country, and the Buddhist clergy and monks who followed the principles of neutrality and non-violence proclaimed and developed by Maha Ghosananda (Morris 200).

The opposed political parties followed two opposite ideologies which were based on the principles similar to Communism and Liberalism. Some politicians were inclined to use the pre- and post-elections conflicts to advance their interests and to oppress the population in Cambodia.

The Buddhist clergy and monks represented the unique powerful actor in the social and political sphere of the country in spite of the fact that the ideals of Buddhism prohibited the active participation in the political activities.

According to the developed Buddhism principles, the Buddhist clergy and monks in Cambodia were focused on the political neutrality in its combination with the social engagement, different non-partisan and non-violent strategies which were actively used in the process of resolving the conflicts in 1993 and 1998 (Morris 198).

Religion, Peacebuilding, Conflict Resolution, and Politics

Focusing on the events of 1993 and 1998, it is possible to state that religion in Cambodia is a very influential tool to convince people to change their minds and follow certain practices and social paths.

In spite of the shared ideology and principles of non-partisan participation and political neutrality, the approaches used by the Buddhist clergy and monks while participating the social and political events of 1993 and 1998 are rather different that is why the results of the conflicts and the role of the Buddhist monks in the processes are different.

In 1993, the Buddhist monks demonstrated their focus on the social engagement without participating directly in the political conflicts, and this approach led to the effective conflict resolution.

On the contrary, in 1998, the Buddhist monks were actively involved in the conflict, and they became the victims of the military violence as the other people. The conflict was not resolved appropriately (Morris, 200-201).

Referring to these two situations, it is possible to state that the Buddhist clergy and monks were oriented to finding the balance between two opposite approaches in order to adjust them to the proclaimed principles of the social engagement connected with the idea of neutrality and non-partisan position of the Buddhist clergy and monks in relation to the political powers in the country.

The Buddhist clergy and monks in Cambodia played an important role in relation to the peacebuilding in the country, especially with references to the events of 1993.

Thus, the peace walks organized before the elections were discussed as the powerful tool to cease the tensions in the society and to calm the population (Morris 200).

As a result, the ideals of the neutrality and non-violence were followed directly, and many contributions was made to the social peace before the significant political events.

Thus, the associated demonstrations were discussed as peaceful ones. From this point, the conflict resolution was achieved with references to the peaceful methods.

However, the events of 1998 demonstrated the results of the opposite approach used by the Buddhist clergy and monks to respond to the political and social situations.

The Buddhist clergy were effective in relation to handling the conflict before the elections because of focusing on the peace activities. Nevertheless, the Buddhist clergy and monks became involved in the demonstrations after the elections of 1998.

Thus, the Buddhist clergy and monks expressed their political position clearly instead of avoiding any partisan activities (Morris 202). As a result, the conflicts were not regulated effectively during a long period of time.

The role of the Buddhist clergy and monks in regulating the conflicts in 1993 and 1998 was significant to influence the voter turnout positively and to contribute to the development of the peaceful activities and behaviours within the Cambodian society.

However, it is important to pay attention to the fact that the Buddhist religion contributed to the peacebuilding in Cambodia with references to following the non-partisan roles and teaching the society how to handle the conflicts and stay peaceful in the context of problematic social and political situations.

Works Cited

Morris, Catherine. “Case Studies in Religion and Peacebuilding”. Religion and Peacebuilding. Ed. Harold Coward and Gordon Smith. New York: State University of New York Press, 2004. 191-211. Print.

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