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Monk council supports festival halt

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A man disinfects the entrance at Saravoan Techo Pagoda in Phsar Kandal commune of Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Monday. Heng Chivoan

Monk council supports festival halt

Venerable Om Lim Heng, first vice-president of the Supreme Sangha Council, has called for public understanding of the difficult situation posed by Covid-19 that necessitated the cancellation of the Pchum Ben festival this year.

The call came in the wake of the government suspension of the religious festival, effective from September 25.

Cambodian Buddhists observe Pchum Ben for 15 days from September 22 to October 6, with the principal festivities celebrated from October 5-7, ending a day after the main day of “great offering”, or Ben Thom, on October 6 coinciding with the new moon. The holiday is dedicated to their ancestors and is an occasion for families to get together.

“The Supreme Sangha Council is greatly concerned with the situation and supports the government’s decision which takes the longer view into account and safeguards public health by suspending the festival this year to stem Covid-19,” he said.

“For the monks who have tested positive for the disease, please cooperate with the authorities to receive appropriate medical treatment.

“To all monks in all pagodas: Please continue to practice Buddhism including Dharma, meditation and studying to gain knowledge while following health measures including the three do’s and three don’ts,” he said.

Separately, Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng on September 26 instructed all district authorities to disinfect all of the capitals’ over 150 pagodas. He ordered them to cooperate with the Covid-19 tracing and emergency rescue team “711” from Brigade 70.

They will be divided into teams of six, each of which will be dispatched to disinfect the capital’s pagodas as quickly as can be managed.

Por Sen Chey district governor Hem Darith said his district had to be cautious because it was formerly designated as a red zone and has 14 pagodas with 800 monks, but so far only a total of four people had tested positive in connection to the pagodas.

According to municipal Department of Cults and Religion director Tep Kongkea, a total of 141 Buddhist monks and laypeople associated with 151 pagodas in Phnom Penh tested positive for Covid-19 over the first two days of the 15-day festival before it was suspended due to fears of a large-scale outbreak.

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