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World Buddhist Summit Opens in Phnom Penh

2,000 Buddhist monks, leaders and lay practitioners from across the globe flock to the royal palace as Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk opens the World Buddhist Summit.

Monks in colored robes arrive at the palace decorated in Buddhist and national flags for the start of a two-day conference dedicated to promoting world peace.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk opened the summit in Phnom Penh, telling the audience that the dark periods of the country's history corresponded to the neglect and violations Buddhist principles.

The king applauded the country's monks and lay people for rebuilding the religion after it was destroyed during the country's civil war.

Scholars say that nearly two thirds of the country's 3,500 Buddhist temples were destroyed during the rule of the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s.

The policies of the regime called on Cambodia's 65,000 monks to flee their temples to work in rice fields.

Chea Savoeurn, the Minister of Cults and Religious Affairs, says what the conference means to the image of Cambodia. "The World Buddhism conference will show the world that the Khmer people do not continue to kill each other," he said. "We need peace, we need national reconciliation. At the conference we will have all the main people, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, King Sihanouk, so we are together to show the world that we need to stop killing. We continue to build the country in the way of the Buddha."

Cambodian officials and leaders of the country's two Buddhist sects joined Buddhist leaders from 16 countries. The delegates were from predominantly Buddhist countries such as Thailand with the majority of participants, some 1,600, coming from Japan. Countries such as Russia and Australia were represented as well.

On Friday, participants are expected to discuss how to use the religion to bring about peace and non-violence in the world, and how to bring the different Buddhist sects together.