Prime Minister Hun Sen took to Facebook on Tuesday – Meak Bochea Day, an important festival in Buddhism – to hail the benefits the state religion brings to Cambodia.
“Buddhism not only helps Cambodian people live together spiritually and peacefully, it also plays a role in strengthening order, stability and development, and preserves national identity,” the prime minister said.
He reminded followers that Meak Bochea Day celebrates the day Buddha declared the creation of “Buddhism” in 588BC on the day of a full moon, symbolising the end of the Hindu calendar month Magha – or Meak in Khmer – after being enlightened for nine months.
On Tuesday, thousands of laypeople and devotees from Kandal, Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang provinces and Phnom Penh gathered at Preah Reach Trop mountain in Kandal province to celebrate Meak Bochea Day.
Ministry of Religions and Cults spokesman Seng Somony said Heng Samrin, the president of the National Assembly, the Supreme Patriarch and other top monks, government officials and the Japanese Ambassador were also present at the Meak Bochea ceremony.
Somony said between 30,000 to 50,000 people attended the event at the “Royal Mountain” in Kandal province’s Oudong district.
Somony said Buddhism plays an important role in the lives of Cambodians, especially instruction from monks in gaining virtue.
“With Buddhism, monks and laypeople have contributed to Cambodia’s social development,” he said.
‘Avoid bad deeds’
Oudong district police chief Khim Samon said ceremonies to mark Meak Bochea Day were expanded this year.
“People come from [as far as] Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu provinces."
“This year, it was a bit different because in Oudong district, every pagoda celebrated the event, while in previous years we held it only at the Royal Mountain,” he said.
Venerable Kou Sopheap, a professor at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, said the youth were paying more attention to Buddhism than previously, especially on Meak Bochea Day and Visak Bochea Day (Buddha’s birthday).
“The principles of Buddhism inform us to avoid committing bad deeds, which lead to problems for the family and society. If many bad deeds are committed, we cannot live happily and peacefully,” he said.