Cambodians mark the Festival of the Dead with offerings of food and prayers to the spirits of family and friends who have passed away.
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Every year in September, Cambodians mark the Festival of the Dead with offerings of food and prayers to the spirits of family and friends who have passed away. This year, the first day of the Buddhist festival began on Saturday (September 17), which is the first day of the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, and will last 15 days. At the Chak Angre Leu Sour Pagoda in the capital, Phnom Penh, a group of people gathered to offer food and drinks in the darkness before sunrise. They believe that some of their family members may have become evil after they died, and therefore they could not receive the offering during day time. Food like cakes and drinks were dropped on the ground or placed on small shrines around the pagoda for the lost souls. When day broke, crowds of people gathered in another temple, Wat Langka, to offer food, drinks and money to their dead family members through the monks. In a country where about a third of the population died during the brutal ultra-Maoist Pol Pot regime, the tradition is observed by many. Although the war-scarred nation's annual Festival of the Dead honours ancestors, it has taken on added significance since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. As many as 2.2 million people were executed or died of torture, starvation or exhaustion during the Khmer Rouge's murderous bid to create a peasant utopia.