Buddhism was nearly eradicated by the Khmer Rouge, but now young men again don the saffron robes of monks, the aged seek peace in restored monasteries, and politicians wave the religious banner.
The ultra-Marxist Khmer Rouge opposed all religions during their brutal rule of 1975-78 that left more than 1 million dead from executions, famine and civil unrest. They razed the country's three Roman Catholic cathedrals and defiled Moslem mosques.Buddhist monasteries, traditionally the centers of village life, were destroyed or turned into warehouses, pigsties and ammunition dumps. The Khmer Rouge disrobed, executed and forced into slave labor camps thousands of Buddhist clergymen.
The revival of Buddhism is one of the most visible signs of change in a country ravaged by conflict until last October's peace agreement among four warring factions.
Tep Vong, the country's most powerful Buddhist leader, said there were more than 20,000 monks in the country, as compared to 1,000 in 1980.
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who heads a national reconciliation council, has put Buddhism's revival high on his agenda. Earlier this year, he elevated Tep Vong to the title of "Prah Sumedhatipoti," or supreme patriarch.