Occassionally I go to check the cages where birds are held for merit release at a small temple along the river, opposite the Royal Palace. I did so today and although I did not find anything particular unusual I thought it would be good to post a blog about this practice. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of birds are sold every year (see article by N van Zalinge in Cambodia Bird News No.2). Lots of birds do not survive this ordeal, especially the insectivores like Barn Swallows, which starve to death in the period from capture to eventual release.
The main depot from which birds are transferred to smaller mobile cages to sell individual birds to temple visitors.
I hope that I am not the only one who sees this commercialisation of a religious ceremony with originally good intentions as twisted and cruel. What merit can be obtained through involvement in this business? Can a wish be granted through the purchase and release of a bird especially caught by traders for that purpose?
It is even possible for avian influenza to cross from bird to person by kissing the birds before release, as is the custom.
See http://www.univ-sante.edu.kh/mekong_sante_2011/download/journee_des_doctorantes/3-001.pdf and http://www.kfbg.org/content/99/16/1/misfortune_28_APR.pdf for more information