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Cambodia marks honoring-the-dead festival

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Buddhists in Cambodia on Tuesday celebrated traditional Pchum Ben, or honoring-the-dead festival, which is the kingdom's second largest celebrations after lunar New Year.

Buddhism is Cambodia's state religion with over 90 percent of the country's 14.8 million people being Buddhists. According to the Ministry of Cults and Religion, the Southeast Asian nation has 4,553 Buddhist pagodas with more than 53,250 monks.

During the three-day fete, which started on Monday, Buddhism followers go to pagodas and offer food, drinks, incense sticks, candles and money to monks in order to dedicate to their relatives and loved ones, who had passed away.

Standing inside a pagoda in Phnom Penh, Teang Phal, 59, said she had already visited three pagodas in order to offer food and other things to the souls of her deceased relatives through reciting by monks.

"I gave food offerings to monks so as to dedicate to my deceased parents," she said. "I believe that everything I offer to the monks will reach my dead relatives and they will bless me and family with good fortune in return."

Chhing Bunchhea, chief of the monks at Sras Chok pagoda, said the celebrations of Pchum Ben festival have existed in Cambodia for nearly 1,000 years. "The festival is to honor deceased ancestors," he said.

The occasion is also a time for family reunion.

Approximately 80 percent of the population has resided in rural areas, but most young adults have migrated to cities and towns for jobs. The migrant workers have been allowed a three-day holiday to visit their home towns.

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