Plowing Portends Little Rain, Lots of Corn

Siv Cheang, a 58-year-old farm­er watching Thursday’s Royal Plowing Ceremony, was not exactly encouraged by the royal plow team’s forecast.

“The oxen did not drink water. That means not much rain this rainy season. And they did not eat the grass, so more animals will get sick this year,” he lamented.

Plus, the beasts’ finicky picking at rice and sesame offered to them meant that there would not be enough of those crops for export this year, according to three palace astrologers.

Thursday’s plowing ceremony did provide plenty of pomp and tradition for spectators, however, as Prince Norodom Yuvaneath, Minister of Agriculture Tao Seng Huor and master of ceremonies Min Khin drove three teams of royal oxen around the field in front of the National Museum.

The plowing ceremony, which dates back centuries, purports to predict the coming farming season through two oxen’s choice of cuisine when presented with rice, grass, corn, soya bean, sesame, wine and wheat.

While the choices disturbed some spectators, the news was not all bad. The chosen cattle did eat all of the corn and soya bean laid out for them Thursday, signifying good yields for those crops, Min Kin announced after getting results from the astrologers.

And they did not touch the wine—good news as the alcohol sig­­­­nifies war.

Although astrologers told re­porters that the oxen’s neglect of the water meant an unusually dry rainy season, Min Khin put a more positive spin on the sign, telling told the crowd of about 1,500 that it meant only that there would be no flooding.

Min Khin also did not address that fact that one of the oxen, after briefly sniffing at the trays, ignored all of them and wandered off to munch grass while his partner partook of the prepared goods.

Others, however, were quick to notice the team’s “split.”

“They look like the two prime ministers,” one Asian diplomat light-heartedly said, referring to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

“They are completely ignoring each other and doing their own thing,” the diplomat added.

Another observer noted it ap­peared the wayward ox was “boycotting” the offerings, a possible indication that Prince Ranariddh might follow through on his threat to boycott July’s scheduled elections. (Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)

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