Clairvoyants Predict Mixed Fortunes for Cambodia in 2014

In 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen will continue to rule, the CNRP will enter parliament and the discord between garment workers and employers will continue—like a man fighting with his wife about his mistress, fortune tellers predicted for the year ahead.

In a musty corner of Kandal Market, a 74-year-old clairvoyant with 50 years experience hunched over a small plastic table on which sat a bundle of incense in an old Red Bull can, a bowl of spoiled fruit and a pixilated picture of the Buddha.

“There will be many, many small problems [for Cambodia in 2014],” she said after drawing the King and Queen of Spades from a fanned deck of cards. “But the two parties will solve the problem together.”

The fortuneteller, who did not want to be named, went on to say that Prime Minister Hun Sen would remain in power until he was a “very old man.”

“Under Hun Sen, many people have become rich—and he still tries to help the poor people,” she said, beginning to mix spiritual insight with her personal political opinions.

Later, inside the temple at Wat Phnom, a lone Buddhist priest used a stack of paper-thin wooden tablets marked with ancient script to forecast the future of two sectors of society.

After offering up a prayer to the spirits, the priest split the stack and the first insight was revealed.

In 2014, the evicted Boeng Kak community “will get what they want from the government. It will be like building a bridge to walk across and take back what was lost,” he said.

As for the nation’s 400,000-odd garment workers, who have been protesting for a minimum wage increase with demonstrations turning violent on Friday and five shot dead by military police, the road looks as rough as ever, the priest said.

“It’s like when a husband fights with his wife about his second wife,” the priest prophesized. “It is a messy fight where both sides want revenge—there will be disaster [for garment workers].”

On the fringe of Wat Phnom, Ma Srey Pich tells fortunes to middle-class clientele.

A brand new Toyota Camry sits in the driveway and Ms. Srey Pich glistens with jewelry as she sits among elaborate shrines and gold-framed family photos.

“Never before have I predicted the fortunes of a nation. People only come to me to predict financial, investment and business matters,” Ms. Srey Pich said.

“Who will rule the country? This is the most important question I have ever been asked.”

Then, after a complicated series of shuffles and cuts to a deck of cards, the Queen of Hearts is drawn.

“The CNRP will join [parliament] in September, but the CPP with its money and power will continue to rule for a long time,” she said.

Despite some of their insights being vague enough to mean almost anything, the first three fortunetellers were unanimous that Mr. Hun Sen’s almost 30-year grip on power would continue.

However, Kau Cim, a clairvoyant who uses the Chinese method of looking forward into the unknown, offered up a metaphor that could be interpreted differently.

Between statues of Confucius, flashing lights and a giant clock carrying the images of Mr. Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany, a wooden cylinder held a bundle of sticks said to harness the power of clairvoyance.

A stick drawn from the cylinder carries a number, which corresponds to a slip of paper, which read in both Chinese and Khmer: Cambodia in 2014 will be “fruitful and glorious like in the past. The bad cloud will pass and reveal a clear, shining sun.”

The fortunetellers had their say this week, but only time can tell.

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