Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prisoners enjoy festival rice cakes

Prisoners enjoy festival rice cakes

Prisoners enjoy festival rice cakes

EVEN prisoners benefited from this year’s Pchum Ben festival honouring the dead in Battambang province.

Thanks to the generosity of spirit of one woman, Sek Sarom, hundreds of volunteers from Battambang’s Dhammayietra Centre, NGOs, villages and Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University collected rice cakes left as offerings from about 120 pagodas around the province’s five districts at the weekend.

They had a busy few days leading up to Saturday’s distribution of the rice cakes to prisoners at Battambang Prison, gathering at a school to build 10 giant barbecues from donated bricks, and using gifts of charcoal and bamboo sticks to grill the cakes overnight.

Helpers manage to grill about 1000 rice cakes, which were driven the next morning in motorbike-drawn carts to the prison, explained Sek Sarom, who started the project in 2000 when she was a student at the Dhammayietra centre for peace studies and meditation.

The idea was sparked by her volunteer work as a language tutor to inmates at Battambang prison, she said.

“Normally during the Pchum Ben festival, prisoners wait for their family members to come and visit, but most of them are too busy to come. We stand in as their family to offer them rice cakes.”

This is Cambodia’s only scheme to aid prisoners during the Pchum Ben festival, but the idea may well spread to other provinces.

But at first, Sarom said the scheme attracted plenty of criticism, even from Buddhist monks. “People wondered why we sent food to thieves, robbers, and other bad people. But now they don’t say anything. Some pagodas now help to grill rice cakes for us and even give us a call if we forget to pick them up.”

About 1200 prisoners were given cakes this year, including 50 women.

Sek Sarom carries on this task because she feels pity for the prisoners, who are an unloved and largely forgotten section of society, she said.

And this year prisoners got extra gifts of comfort from the effort, Sek Sarom explained. “We have a plan to add instant noodles and soap into the care packages.”


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Cambodia, states clash at UN session

    Cambodia traded shots with the international community in a heated exchange at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday evening, with states condemning the Kingdom’s ongoing crackdown on the political opposition and civil society, and an increasingly agitated Cambodia accusing member states