In South Vietnam on Thursday (17 May), the country's Buddhist population was publically united for the first time in seven years.
BUDDHIST GATHERED IN SAIGON AND SHOTS PRAYERS GOING ON WITH VARIOUS FACTION LEADERS, PRESIDENT LON NOL AND CABINET AT PHNONPENH CEREMONY AND THAI BUDDHIST IN PROCESSION WITH CANDLES AND THAI INSIDE PRAYING.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: In South Vietnam on Thursday (17 May), the country's Buddhist population was publically united for the first time in seven years.
The occasion was the anniversary of Buddha's birthday. Leaders of the country's 10 million devotees gathered in Saigon's Nga Bay Square to celebrate the occasion, and the two main Buddhist groups -- the militant An Quang faction and the moderate Unified Buddhist Sect -- prayed together for the first time since 1966. Fourteen other minor sects joined in to bring the whole Buddhist movement together.
The two main factions were united in their opposition to Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem Until his overthrow in 1963. They split during another political upheaval in 1966 when Buddhist riots broke out in Hue the threatening the military junta led by Air Vice-Marshal Cao Ky which was then ruling South Vietnam.
Meanwhile, in the Khmer Republic, President Lon Nol and his new coalition cabinet was attending celebrations in Phnompenh to mark Buddha's anniversary.
The new cabinet had been presented to the President only that morning, and it was their first public appearance as representatives of the new cabinet -- called by President Lon Nol in the face of a deteriorating military situation throughout the country.
President Lon Nol and his cabinet watched a procession of floats and flags after prayer ceremonies. Among those present on the official dias with the President were Sirik Matak, In Tam and Cheng Heng.
In Thailand, the Buddhist festivities began with candle-lit procession around Bangkok's main temple. Thousand of Thai buddhists, along with Western tourists and sightseers, joined the procession and then the prayer ceremonies later.
Initially, the procession wound around the temple three times while devotees chanted prayers and songs. Once inside, the Buddhists prayed for their religion, their ancestors and for a prosperous year.