Buddhism and Human Rights is inseparable. There are many times, many places and many events that Lord Buddha preached on non-violence, tolerance and compassion. Human rights declared by the United Nations is the universal rights to all human beings. The UN’s charter considers human rights as the most important pillar comparing to other provisions adopted by this new world body in encountering human problems. But Lord Buddha advocated beyond human dimension by introducing the respect of animal rights and natural rights. The UNs might experience difficulty in handling with animal and natural rights while the literal meaning of rights itself has invoked controversy and implementability.
Buddhism and Human Rights
Many studies and literature found the life of Buddha, his teaching and his Sangha community have collectively worked towards the safeguarding of human rights. Buddha himself was born in the forest, he enlightened in the forest and passed away (Parinibbana) in the forest. When he was a young prince, he saved life of a swan which was shot by his relative named Devadatta. His teaching significantly articulated Sila or precepts or code of conduct to instill self-discipline and avoiding violating or harming on others as the preliminary discourse, or it is Vinaya in the Tipitaka that all members of the Sangha (Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Upasaka and Upaseka) must undertake. And by this undertaking, the members of the Sangha can empower the pathway to practice deeper and more fruitful level of attainment such as Dhamma discourse, Vipassana meditation and Abhidhamma. The Sangha community is the model of human community expressing the respect of human rights by observing different precepts such as Five Precepts, Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts and Four Precepts etc. Among those precepts, Five Precepts are fundamental for all human beings to observe in order to fully defend self well-being and the well-being of others.
- First precept of human rights is to avoid all types of physical abuses such as beating, injuring, killing and destroying lives of others, by undertaking loving-kindness and compassion towards all beings.
- Second precept of human rights is to avoid stealing or commit bribing/corrupting in a society, by undertaking self-restrain of greed and project a life of right livelihood.
- Third precept of human rights is to avoid committing sexual misconduct such as raping and dishonesting one’s own partner, by undertaking self-restrain of sexual craving and be honest or enjoying only the married partner.
- Fourth precept of human rights is to avoid telling lie, using slandering words, idle talk and back-biting talk, by undertaking trustworthy speech, harmonious language and useful words.
- Fifth precept of human rights is to avoid alcoholically addicting or using of addictive drugs, by undertaking mindfulness and mental stillness.
Why December 10?
Human Rights Day was universally declared by the United Nations on December 10th, 1950 to the attention of the people of the world, it is the universal human rights declaration that human beings must be able to achieve. The day is probably part of the reflection of the proxy war as well as the world division during the WW1 and WW2. Otherwise, the corporation of the new world order has been garnered by many scholars and movements around the world. The establishment of the UNs is among those pragmatism and idealism. More than this, the coming of Enlightenment era jumped up from the dark era as it is called the age of human endeavor.
Cambodia and the Human Rights Day
It is the national holiday and it has been present in this country probably since the country was become the permanent member of the United Nations. Cambodia has to abide by many stipulates it has signed including the strengthening the rule of law, democracy, and the respect of human rights.
This year, civil society has fully performed their duty to advocate the respect of human rights at the grassroots level by making five different Dhamma and Sithi Marches from different five directions. The marches have begun on December 1st from remote provinces heading towards Phnom Penh via national road number #1, #3, #4, #5, and #6. The marches are led by Buddhist monks who are reverent by the people and bystanders. The people offer food and financial support in exchanging for merits, Dhamma enlightenment and blessing from the monks. There are many grassroots people were preached on the meaning of human rights, participated with the marches and provided both mental and material support. But there are many temples and places that local authority tried to obstruct the marches and sometime the marches leadership and participants must block the road in handling with the local authority.
The theme of human rights day this year (10 December 2013)
Cambodian civil society has titled “No Justice, No Peace or Solidify to Fight Against Social Injustice” as their main theme this year, the CNRP called for the public attention of: “people rights to elect the capable leader”, while CPP celebrated human rights day on their theme of: “December 2nd is the significant day to liberate Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge or celebrating this day strengthening the respect of human rights”. Note that this year is the remarkable year that CPP celebrated “Human Rights Day”. For the United Nations, this year is the 20th commemoration of the 20 years working for your rights. UN-Secretary general Ban Ki-moon said: “As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, let us intensify our efforts to fulfill our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere.”
The politics of Human Rights Day
Human rights day this year in Cambodia has become outstanding comparing to previous years. The 10 days preparation of Dhamma marches by the civil society is seen outstandingly. The new strongest emergent Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) shall organize peaceful mass demonstration in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for the commemoration of this day is seen very much significant. But it has been rare for the Cambodian People Party (CPP) which is the government-led party will also commemorate this day, and this party has used this day for the political advantage by marching December 2 to that of December 10 of the Human Rights Day. December 2nd, according to the CPP, it is the birth of this party in order to finish the terror regime of Pol Pot. But many scholars and observers have remarked this attempt as the hidden agenda of Vietnamese influence over CPP. According to those observers, the December 2nd which is the date of the creation of the CPP, Vietnam solely created this party in order to achieve its goal of playing political hegemony over Cambodia. First Vietnam helped the Khmer Rouge to power. Second Vietnam helped the CPP to topple the Khmer Rouge in reprisal. The people of the Khmer Rouge and the people of the CPP have been coming from the same root per se.
What will you do next?
Buddha preached that: “Silena Sukhatena Yanti, Silena Phokhasomphada, Silena Nipputena Yanti, Tasma Silam, Visodhaye” or literally means “Precepts or human rights shall bring us happiness, shall bring us the wealth, shall bring us to Nibbana; so everyone must undertake the five precept or human rights attentively and heedfully”.