Intercession of Local Spirit Sought in Rain Request

Boeng villagers dress as clowns, hermits and drag queens in paying homage to Louk Ta Kahe

While thunderclouds hung pro­misingly overhead, revelers in Kandal province’s Boeng village yesterday brought an end to two days of ceremonies imploring their re­vered local guardian spirit, Louk Ta Kahe, for a healthy season of rain.

“We pray for sufficient rainfall and pray that animals will not fall sick,” Ponhea Poan commune chief Kou Oeun said yesterday.

Most years the rain starts falling on the first day of the ceremony and continues through the second, said Mr Oeun. This year, they had barely a trickle by Mon­day night.

But with dark clouds casting a hu­mid shadow over their reveries yesterday, the villagers remained hopeful that their spirit was listening. Still, if the rains come a little late this year, it will not be for a lack of effort.

Dressed as spirits, hermits and kick-boxers, or even in drag, the residents of Boeng village had done their best to please Louk Ta Kahe, who by all accounts likes a good laugh.

Most days of the year, the spirit’s concrete statue sits alone in his spirit house at the base of a giant pring tree. Yesterday, a procession of villagers made the 1-kilometer march to the spirit house bearing an alter filled with sesame, rice seed and rice. After walking around the house three times, they set the alter, now blessed with good wishes to the spirit and of­ferings, on a dike about 100 meters off.

“We dance around the spirit [house] three times so that he can give us good rainfall,” said Sok Theam, who came to the event dressed as a clown.

While it will take a few more weeks of dry skies before the rainy season will be considered overdue, this year has not been accompanied by the preseason downpours that usually herald its arrival in late May and early June.

Even so, Kith Seng, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the extra-dry dry season should not hurt this year’s rice crops, even if the rains do arrive a little late.

“I think it will not be a big problem if the rain comes a little bit late,” he said.

Yi Kimchan, however, program director for the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the dearth of pre-season rain has hurt the 10 to 20 percent of farmers who rely on local ponds to water their vegetable fields.

“It’s very important for them. The vegetables provide nutrients for them besides rice,” he said, noting that a poor yield means going without their usual supplies or spending their savings to supplement them.

In Ratanakkiri province, the unfulfilled promise of a few April showers has already damaged some farmers’ cassava crops.

Lumphat district farmer Prak Ream said the poor pre-season rains, combined with unusually hot temperatures, have damaged two cassava crops already at a cost of $700. “I have lived here for 10 years. I have never seen this problem,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy and Zsombor Peter)



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