Hundreds of Buddhist monks and followers, government officials and students celebrated Meak Bochea festival at Phnom Preah Reach-Trop – the ancient capital city of Oudong – with Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Men Sam An attending on February 5.

Meak Bochea, also known internationally as Magha Puja or Lord Buddha Day, is celebrated on the full moon in the third month of the traditional Khmer calendar, to commemorate the day when the Buddha declared the founding of Buddhism in India in 588 BC, just nine months after his enlightenment.

During the festival, Buddhist ceremonies were held and Sam An brought gifts from Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany for the monks who each received 100,000 riel ($25) and various other items.

“Buddhism has not only made our people live together peacefully, but also contributed significantly to strengthening order, peace, social stability and development in all areas and maintained our national identity,” Hun Sen posted to social media.

National Assembly president Heng Samrin said on social media that Meak Bochea is an important festival in Buddhism that followers celebrate every year.

Venerable Kou Sopheap of Nikrothavorn Pagoda, also known as Kol Toteung, held the ceremony at the pagoda in Prek Thmei commune’s Koh Krabei village of Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district.

He said that all people should take their children to celebrate it to preserve Khmer Buddhist traditions.

“We shouldn’t celebrate other religion’s festivals. You say you love our culture, but once Meak Bochea arrives, you do not come to celebrate it, so how can we preserve it!” he said.

Ministry of Cults and Religion secretary of state Seng Somony said that this festival plays an important role throughout the world, including in Cambodia, in practicing Buddhism in a spirit of peace.

“A country that practices Buddhism is peace-loving and must abide by the law and discipline,” he said.