More than 2,000 people, including local villagers and residents from around Siem Reap province, came together on February 11 for a unique fishing ceremony at an ancient pond near Angkor Wat.

The annual event, known as leung meak or leung neak ta, serves as a spiritual reaffirmation of community bonds and loyalty.

According to Prasat Bakong district governor So Platong, this year saw an increase in participation compared to previous year. The ceremony, held according to the traditions of Bangkong village within the Angkor Archaeological Park, marks the end of the rice harvest season and draws participants from all walks of life.

The tradition involves conserving fish in the historic pond throughout the year, with fishing only permitted during the festivities. Following the Bangkong villagers' event, other villages are allowed to fish in the pond the next day.

The practice reflects the community's respect for both tradition and sustainability, ensuring the pond's resources are shared and preserved. 

“The annual ceremony occurs after villagers complete rice harvesting and store paddy in their barns. Villagers fish individually and reserve a section of the pond with bamboo or wooden barricades for communal catching during the festival,” Platong said.

The Apsara National Authority (ANA) – a body tasked with managing the Angkor Park –noted on February 11 that the region boasts a wealth of living history and tangible and intangible heritage, which has been continuously cherished by area residents to this day.

“Every year after the rice harvest, local residents celebrate by fishing together as a community, following handed-down tradition,” the ANA said.

Bangkong village chief Pich Khin said the communal event occurs in the large pond throughout the year which villagers are responsible for conserving and protecting, allowing fishing only during the annual rite, unless otherwise authorised by the festival organising committee in advance. 

He noted that participants must adhere to traditional fishing methods during the observance.

“Villagers keep some fish for family meals, while the rest becomes ceremonial offerings for local monks, an aspect of the event that is never missed,” said Khin.

The Tbong Khmum provincial administration is also preparing to hold a similar fishing ceremony at Trapeang Kram Lake in Memot district on February 17.