Pchum Ben Celebrations Feel Pinch From Economic Crisis

With this year’s Pchum Ben celebrations having begun Saturday, residents have started flocking to pagodas in Phnom Penh, but Buddhist monks said yesterday that donations have fallen compar­ed to previous years as a result of the global financial crisis and be­cause many choose to leave the capital during the holiday.

During the 15 days of Pchum Ben, which is held to honor relatives and loved ones who have passed away, Cambodians go to pagodas and offer food, drinks, in­cense and money. But this year people have less money to give, said Kean Sokunthea, deputy abbot at the Tuol Tompoung pagoda in Chamkar Mon district.

“The money collected from do­na­tions to build a new public building at that pagoda has decreased and the amount of beverages [sold] has also de­creased. I think it is a result from the influence of the financial crisis,” he said. He added that more and more people leave Phnom Penh dur­ing the celebrations, which is con­­­­trib­uting to the drop in donations.

“Now people have vehicles and prefer to celebrate the ceremonies at their hometown or some remote area,” Mr Sokunthea said.

Standing outside Wat Botum yesterday, Neang Phanraingsey, 60, said she had already visited three pagodas and donated an estimated $17 to $20 to each in the form of food, drinks, incense and candles.

“I believe that this offering can help my ancestors to be reborn on a good planet,” she said, adding that over the next few days she would visit at least four more pagodas.

Reached by telephone yesterday, Minister of Religion Min Khin said that it was likely that worldwide financial woes would mean that people are not able to donate as free­ly as they have in past years.

“People cannot earn as much as last year because last year the price of real estate was high,” he said, ex­plaining that people were able to make money last year when they sold property.

“However, I did see many people who attended the ceremonies not just in the city but in the countryside as well,” he added.

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