Buddhist Celebration Quiet Year After Relics’ Return

Celebrations for Visak Bochea, the holiest day on the Buddhist calendar, were considerably quieter on Wednesday at a prominent stupa on Oudong Mountain in Kandal province, a year after missing sacred relics were returned to the site, an official said.

Over 1,000 attendees last year crowded the winding streets in Ponhea Leu district awaiting the arrival of an urn supposedly containing the hair, teeth and bone fragments of Buddha.

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Cults and Religion Minister Him Chhem, center, carries an urn containing relics of the Buddha to the stupa on top of Odong mountain, flanked by Grand Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, left, and Bou Kry, the supreme patriarch of the Thammayut Buddhist sect, last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

But this year, attendance had visibly dropped, with fewer Phnom Penh residents showing up, said Tim Ton, the chief stupa security guard.

The relics disappeared one night in 2013, and were found months later in a farmer’s kitchen.

The farmer was sentenced to seven years in prison alongside four stupa guards.

The relics were stored in Phnom Penh until Visak Bochea last year.

Heightened security remains in effect at the stupa, Mr. Ton said, with 20 security guards stationed there.

“We had a bad previous experience, so we don’t want it to happen again,” he said.

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