Kong Sam Ol, chairman of the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, has issued guidelines to all state institutions for the celebrations of the upcoming Buddhist holiday of Meak Bochea.

This year’s festival will be observed on February 24 and 25, in accordance with Buddhist tradition.

According to the January 9 instructions, Meak Bochea is one of the major Buddhist festivals, and is celebrated by Buddhists from all around the world.

The day, 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, and commemorates the day when the Buddha declared the founding of Buddhism in India in 588 BC, just nine months after his enlightenment.

It also marks the occasion when Buddha prophesied his death and where Buddhist followers remember Buddha and his teachings.

Each year, Khmer Buddhists earn great merit by celebrating Meak Bochea in pagodas across the Kingdom.

“The government will organise a ceremony at the Sakyamuni Stupa in Phnom Preah Reach-Trop – the ancient capital of Oudong – in Kandal province. Senior members of the Senate and the National Assembly, as well as civil servants, students, teachers and monks will participate, in accordance with the Constitution of Cambodia, which states that Buddhism is the religion of the state,” said Sam Ol.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn, said on January 10 that Meak Bochea is one of the largest Buddhist festivals, and is always celebrated in the compound of the Sakyamuni Stupa.

He added that each year, the provincial administration works with the government’s festival committee to plan the event. They decorate the streets and deploy security forces, in order to manage traffic and protect social order before, during and after the ceremony.

“The provincial administration will hold a solemn ceremony. Currently, we are cleaning the venue, in preparation. We will also organise security, to ensure the safety of the Buddhists involved,” said Sophorn.

Ministry of Cults and Religion spokesperson Seng Somony declined to comment on January 10, saying he was in a meeting.

Preah Sihanouk provincial administration spokesman Kheang Phearum said he was not prepared to speculate on the province’s plans for the festival, as provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun has yet to hold a meeting to plan the occasion.