King Is Absent as Buddhist Faithful Flock to Odong

Thousands of people and scores of government officials com­me­m­orated the traditional Buddhist ceremony of Visak Bochea on Kan­dal province’s Odong mountain Tues­day, but King Norodom Siha­moni, who was scheduled to preside over the ceremony, celebrated at the Royal Palace instead, according to a ministry official.

Senators, lawmakers and government officials from many ministries attended the ceremony, which marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, but the King’s absence took many by surprise.

“I also did not know that the King would not come,” Khun Haing, Minister of Cults and Religion, told the ceremony at the foot of Ponhea Leu district’s Odong mountain. “However, we still run the ceremony normally.”

Chea Kean, secretary-general of the Permanent Organizing Com­mittee for National and Inter­na­tional Ceremonies, said the committee was informed that the King was not present in the morning when the ceremony started.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, Nat­io­n­al Assembly President Heng Sam­rin, and Senate President Chea Sim were also scheduled to appear according to the ceremony’s program, but they were not in attendance either.

Prince Sisowath Kolachat, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, said Wednesday that the King had celebrated Visak Bochea at the Royal Palace.

Visak Bochea, which ended Wednesday, is celebrated on the full moon during the lunar calendar’s Visak month.

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