Good Harvest Ahead, Royal Cleric Predicts Harvest Ahead

Cambodians will see sizable harvests of corn, beans and rice this year, and will continue to live free of violence, according to predictions based on the appetites of the royal oxen and delivered at the annual Royal Plowing Ceremony on Thurs­­day.

During the colorful ceremony, held at Phnom Penh’s Veal Men park in front of the National Mu­seum, two royal oxen ate 95 percent of the corn and beans offered and 90 percent of the rice.

They did not drink any wine, a sign that means “good social order [and] nonviolence,” said royal Brahmin clergyman Seung Kim Leang in an interview after the ceremony.

Deputy Prime Minister and co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng steered the plow as his wife followed sowing symbolic seeds of various grains in line with the tradition of the ceremony, which was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni.

While taking their fill of rice, beans and corn, the royal oxen steered clear of the bowls filled with grass, sesame and water. The oxen’s’ avoidance of the water is traditionally considered a portent of drought, observers said, but royal astrologers insisted Thurs­day that rain will be plentiful.

“Oxen did not drink water, [which] means enough rain,” Seung Kim Leang said. “If they drink water, it means there would be big flood.”

Despite the astrologers’ predictions, farmers at the ceremony remained skeptical about the po­tential for drought.

“[The oxen’s’ lack of water consumption] is a good sign, but we cannot rely on rain,” said farmer Mao Mon. “We must rely on ca­nals [and water] pumping mach­ines.”

Noticeably absent from the event were the government’s three highest ranking officials, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh.

During a visit to Kompong Cham province on Thursday, Hun Sen told villagers there that he was too busy with work to attend the plowing ceremony in Phnom Penh, according to a speech broad­cast on TVK on Thursday eve­ning.

The premier also expres­sed skepticism about the outcome of the royal oxen predictions, noting that a drought predicted in 2000 was in fact followed by flooding in Cambodia.

“Since then I avoid [the cere­mony]. But this is the tradition, we have to celebrate,” Hun Sen said, according to the TVK broadcast.

While Seth Vannareth, director of the meteorology department for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, wouldn’t agree or disagree with the royal predictions, she said her department has some good news of its own.

“I don’t know if the traditional prediction is true, but according to the scientific predictions, there will be enough rain, and the rain will be better than last year,” she said.

Royal oxen also refused to drink water at last year’s ceremony. In the months since, Cambodia has suffered one of its worst droughts in years.

Nearly 100 farmers—chosen for successful work in farming and for their willingness to help their less fortunate neighbors with food and supplies—were invited to the ceremony and received gifts from King Sihamoni in recognition of their good work.

The ceremony’s pomp and ritual delighted the throngs of people present, including both Cambo­dians and foreign visitors.

“I like the ceremony,” said 11-year-old Hy Sarin. “It helps to bring rain.”



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