Pchum Ben suspended amid Covid concerns

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Buddhists offer alms to monks on the first day of the 15-day Pchum Ben festival at Wat Langkar in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

The government has ordered a suspension of Pchum Ben, effective from September 25, to contain the spread of Covid-19 after dozens of cases have been detected in some pagodas in the first two days of the 15-day festival.

Pchum Ben kicked off on September 22 and will run through October 5.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a decision dated September 23 that the first two days of the festival had seen large gatherings at pagodas, making it difficult for authorities to enforce health measures.

He said Cambodia could face a large-scale outbreak of Covid-19, especially its highly contagious Delta variant, if urgent measures were not taken.

“In order to contain Covid-19, especially to protect the lives and health of our people as the Kingdom is reopening schools and on the path towards full reopening of the country in the near future, the government has decided to suspend celebrations starting from the fourth day of the festival,” the letter read.

Nevertheless, the three-day Pchum Ben holiday for civil servants and employees in the private sector from October 5-7 will be maintained.

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 prime minister instructed municipal and provincial authorities to assist Buddhist followers in offering alms to the monks at pagodas in territories under their jurisdiction.