The presence of the Tibetan spiritual leader would have infuriated China and violated Cambodia's own policy of supporting Beijing's view that Tibet is part of China, Khieu Kanharith said, adding, "China requested that the Dalai Lama not be invited." He said Cambodia agreed to the request several months ago "for diplomatic and political reasons."
The World Buddhist Summit will be held Dec. 5-7 in Cambodia and attract some 100 Buddhist leaders from at least 16 countries, Cambodian organizers said. More than 1,200 members of Japan's Nenbutsushu sect, the summit's primary sponsor, are also expected, they said.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, attended the first World Buddhist Summit in Japan in 1998. He was not invited to the 2000 conference in Thailand, they said.
Chorn Iem, secretary of state for the Cults and Religion Ministry, said Wednesday that organizers would have been honored to have the Dalai Lama in attendance. "If China agreed to invite him, we would have done it," Chorn Iem said.
A civil war split China and Taiwan 53 years ago, and Beijing says the self-ruled island must unify eventually or face war. Khieu Kanharith said Beijing requested that the Taiwanese delegation attending the conference be formally recognized as being from a Chinese province.
China is the fifth-ranking foreign investor in Cambodia and its government has provided the Cambodian government millions of dollars in loans and grants for development projects.