Khmer Theravada followers, a major sect of the Vietnam Buddhist Shangha (VBS), have been called to join prayers for peace in the East Sea.

Most Venerable Thich Duc Nghiep, Vice President of the Vietnam Buddhist Shangha (VBS)’s Executive Council, made the call at a conference held in the southern province of Kien Giang on June 11.

The function, the first of its kind, took place at a time when the whole nation is looking towards to the East Sea as China is illegally placing its oil rig into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

He remembered all the Khmer Theravada monks who sacrificed their lives for the cause of national liberation and unification.

Most Venerable Thich Thien Nhon, Permanent Vice President and General Secretary of the VBS’s Executive Council, said he hopes the conference will help preserve the culture and Buddhism of the ethnic Khmer people, as well as recognise their contributions to the development of the nation through history.

According to the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, the Khmer Theravada Buddhists joined the VBS in 1981. They now have 452 pagodas, more than 1 million believers and almost 9,000 monks.

Buddhism has been practised in Vietnam for over 2,000 years. The country has more than 12 million Buddhist followers, 40,000 monks and nuns and almost 15,000 temples, monasteries and other places of worship.

At the beginning of May 2014, China illegally dispatched the rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 as well as a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships and aircraft to Vietnam’s waters and positioned the rig at 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude. The location is 80 miles deep into Vietnam ’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

On May 27, China moved the rig to 15 degrees 33 minutes 22 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 36 seconds east longitude. The new location is 25 nautical miles from Tri Ton Island in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago and 23 nautical miles east-northeast from the old location, still completely within Vietnam ’s continental shelf. With the move, China has kept on violating Vietnam’s sovereign right and jurisdiction.

Between May 3 and June 5, Chinese ships intentionally rammed and fired water cannons at Vietnamese vessels, injuring 12 fisheries surveillance officers and damaging 24 Vietnamese law enforcement ships, including five coast guard and 19 fisheries surveillance ones.

On May 26, Chinese ships sank a fishing boat belonging to Da Nang fishermen operating in the traditional fishing grounds near Vietnam ’s Hoang Sa archipelago.

On June 1, Chinese ships seriously damnaged ship 2016 of the Vietnam Coast Guard, causing holes on its side.

On June 7, Chinese ship deliberately rammed into Vietnam’s fisheries surveillance ship KN-635.

Recent illegal actions by China seriously violated the sovereignty of Vietnam , international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC). They negatively impacted maritime security and safety in the East Sea and directly threatened peace, stability and cooperation in the region and the world.

Vietnam is determined to protect its sovereignty and legitimate interest by peaceful measures because the country’s sovereignty is sacred. Vietnam demands China immediately withdraw its rig from the Vietnamese waters, while calling on the international community to put pressure on China to abide by international law and respect the rights and benefits of all coastal countries in line with the UNCLOS 1982.-VNA