In her multicolored stall near Wat Phnom, 52-year-old Pak Try Chhim lit a bundle of incense and said a few words of prayer. She then shuffled a deck of cards and spread them out on the table in front of her.
The fortune teller pointed to a 10 of spades and offered her reading into Cambodia’s political future.
“The country is looking for the right person to solve the problem, but the right person is not there yet, so there is no political resolution,” Pak Try Chhim said. “We are not in a good situation. We cannot compromise with each other. The politicians are full of greed, and they cannot agree on a common goal.”
She gestured to a cluster of other cards, which, she said, indicated that a resolution to the nearly five-month-long deadlock will not be reached for at least another three months.
Since the July 27 national election the three main political parties have not been able to agree on how to form the new government and National Assembly.
“Everyone is still fighting strongly against each other. But in March, these people will be awakened and they can talk to each other,” Pak Try Chhim said.
She added: “According to the dark spirit, [the new Khmer year] is the year of the monkey. So after April, the situation will calm down.”
In a letter last week, King Norodom Sihanouk said an astrologer had predicted that Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats would face defeat if it did not succeed in its dispute with the CPP by the end of December.
Pak Try Chhim, however, said she could not foresee the Alliance’s downfall.
“I cannot tell which force will win,” she said.
At a neighboring stall, 57-year-old Pov Nimol declined to give any specific predictions on the political deadlock “for fear of upsetting the spirits.” But she agreed to divulge her readings of the country’s and the King’s future.
On Tuesday, King Sihanouk wrote in a statement posted on his Web site that a famous Indian astrologer had told him he would not die until the age of 96. The King turned 82 in October.
“The King is fine, though he’s worried about the situation,” Pov Nimol said, adding that January and February will be good months for him. She also said the monarch would be even stronger in the coming year.
However, for the country, she said, “something bad will happen on Dec 29, but it will not be serious… In 2004, everything will be OK.”
Along the riverfront on Sisowath Quay, Chea Samneang, 55, said her deck of cards also points to an end to the political deadlock in early 2004.
“The situation will be changed and will get better in February and March,” she said, adding that her cards, splayed out in a fan-like formation, did not show any violence or mass disruption in the meanwhile.
Chea Samneang also offered her predictions on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s fate.
“Hun Sen could stay for another term because he has many people supporting him,” she said. “He will be there in 2005, 2006 and 2007. But he cannot stay forever. There will be a new person coming out of the works in the next mandate.”
Chea Samneang expressed amusement over questions about the country’s political situation. Her customers, she said, never ask about such things.
“The others just care about their families or their darlings,” she said. “The small people only care about making a living.”