Soothsayers Predict Hard Year for Cambodia , But Officials Disagree

Cambodia’s soothsayers foresee unrest and agricultural disaster in the upcoming year, but government officials are saying that the country will remain stable and all will be well as Khmer New Year 2007 comes and goes.

Mahotaradevi, the devada or de­ity of the New Year, will arrive at midday on Saturday to begin the celebrations of the Year of the Pig, which will continue through Mon­day, said Long Kimheng, 47, who has been telling fortunes along the Tonle Sap river across the Royal Palace for 22 years.

“Because she comes at midday when it is very hot, it is a bad o­men,” Long Kimheng said. “This year will be worse than last year. There will be a lot of bad luck and illness,” she said.

The country will experience much conflict in the new year and insects will ravage half of Cambo­dia’s agricultural products, predicted Im Borent, a member of the Council of Ministers’ Committee for Research, Astrology and Khmer Tradition.

Because Cambodia is relatively peaceful right now, the unrest may only be verbal arguments, Im Borent said. But “50 percent of rice and other crops will be destroyed by pests,” he added.

Chea Kim An, a 65-year-old fortuneteller who works near Wat Phnom, said “a flood will destroy about 70 percent of the rice fields.”

Despite the fierce and cruel images conjured up for the year ahead, Chea Kim An said there is a glimmer of hope.

“If [the spirit] is in our mind and if we honestly try to do good, we can change some of the bad,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary of State Yim Voeunthan said he could not give credence to such predictions.

“We cannot believe that [rice] yields would decline below 50 percent,” he said, adding that the government actively works against crop-eating pests.

Responding to predictions of conflict, Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia is very stable at the moment and he does not think the country will face unrest. “We have national security and stability,” he added.

According to a Phnom Penh Municipality statement dated April 4, people are banned from using toy guns, splashing water and throwing powder or charcoal on passersby during the holiday.

“City hall would like to urge people, especially teenagers and students, to keep a good attitude…and not to beat or hit pedestrians and motorcycle drivers which could cause traffic accidents and could result in the loss of lives,” the statement said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said one third of the city’s 5,000 police officers will be on duty at hotspots such as Wat Phnom and various pagodas to maintain order and enforce the ban on raucous behavior, which also pertains to gambling and fireworks.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)


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