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Festival of the Dead Brings People, Monks Together

On the final day of Cambodia's festival to honor the dead, Pchum Ben, many laymen traveled to temples to offer gifts to monks and the spirits of their ancestors, whom they believe seek the temples this time of year.

Of all the Cambodian festivals, Pchum Ben brings the most people in contact with monks, as they bring offerings to the pagodas to honor the dead.

This year has been a hard year for monks, for Cambodia and its Buddhist neighbor, Burma. At least one monk has been murdered in Cambodia, and Tim Sakhorn was defrocked and imprisoned in Vietnam for allegedly stirring foment between the two countries and for crossing between them illegally.

Venerable Hok Savann, a leading monk in Canada, said laymen can make prayers for the monks of Burma. Whether an evil spirit will receive merit depends on the compassion of those who pray.

Hok Savann encouraged Cambodians to respect Buddhist traditions and reminded them to stay involved in a deeper spiritual life.

Buddhism can be practiced even by the young, he said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Pchum Ben developed between 897 AD to 910 AD. During the festival, monks chant, warning against the destructors of the spirit: gambling, adultery, sloth, disrespect of elders, coveting.

Hok Savann did not speak of Tim Sakhorn specifically, but said in Buddhism human rights are very clear. Buddha said don't kill, don't hate, don't be angry. These are fundamental, he said.