Minister of Cults and Religions Chhit Sokhon instructed directors of all provincial and municipal departments to work with Buddhist leaders to reduce the risk of Covid-19 during the upcoming Kan Ben and Pchum Ben festivals.
The Kan Ben and Pchum Ben ceremonies this year will take place from September 13-17.
Sokhon wants his officials to work with monks at all levels and pagoda chiefs throughout the capital and provinces to strengthen safety measures.
Sokhon said in an announcement on August 25 that people will travel to pagodas across the country for the Buddhist holidays.
In order to comply with Ministry of Health requirements, pagodas must be organised in an orderly manner and be hygienic. They should also be environmentally friendly and public rubbish bins should be set up.
“The pagodas must cooperate with the local authorities to organise safety measures for the people who come to perform meritorious deeds. Prepare and distribute alms appropriately to avoid waste. Give to the armed forces and distribute to the poor, orphans and homeless children,” Sokhon said.
He said pagodas should be inspected and monitored to implement the recommendations of the prime minister and the Ministry of Health. Educational materials produced by the Ministry of Health should be shared widely and regularly in the pagodas.
Health check stations should be set up for people entering the pagoda courtyards, temple or hall, including a thermometer check and soap or alcohol for hand washing.
Sokhon said people must wear masks, scarfs, or towels or cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. They should also keep a personal distance of at least 1.5m from each person.
Pchum Ben Day is one of Cambodia’s major festivals, which people throughout the Kingdom have traditionally celebrated without interruption. It starts from the first day of the lunar month until the 15th. The 15 days are divided into Ben one and Ben two, and the last day is Pchum Ben.
Serey Sakor Daun Sdoeung pagoda chief monk Im Teang, told The Post on Thursday that his pagoda in Preah Sdech district, Prey Veng province has always followed the Ministry of Health guidelines.
“For the upcoming Kan Ben and Pchum Ben festivals, I do not yet know whether the government will allow gatherings or not. But I am prepared to share the information every day to the Buddhists around the pagoda to protect and prevent Covid-19,” he said.
Teang said he could not ban or limit the number of people who come to celebrate Kan Ben or Pchum Ben because of their respect for Buddhism, but he will follow the ministry’s instructions.