The Raelians have arrived in Cambodia.
Dressed in signature white pajamas and matching white sneakers, Lee Ki-Tae a senior Raelian official, explained his movement to a gathering of some 60 Cambodians at a Phnom Penh hotel Saturday evening.
“If you look into the sky, you too will see the UFOs,” the South Korean told his audience. “We must establish peace on earth…and build an embassy in Jerusalem, otherwise the aliens will not come back.”
The International Raelian Movement was founded in 1973 by French journalist Claude Vorilhon, who subsequently changed his name to Rael. Rael claims that in 1973, he was visited by an alien race called the Elohim.
Raelians believe that the Elohim explained the secrets of existence to Rael and made him their ambassador on earth. The mission of the group, which many describe as a cult, is to foster peace and harmony by spreading those revelations.
The group claims to now have 35,000 members worldwide.
“I was concerned that there are no Raelians in Cambodia, so I decided to come here,” Lee Ki-Tae said after Saturday’s meeting, adding that he has made four trips to Cambodia since 2005.
Vichet Am, a Raelian and project manager at the NGO Care, said the group is now seeking permission from the Interior Ministry to open offices here.
Vichet Am said his parents were initially surprised by his new beliefs. “They were concerned that it is not compatible with Buddhism, but they accept that I have freedom to believe what I want to believe,” he said.
Restaurant worker Pham Anan, a 25-year-old Raelian, said the group has 10 members in Cambodia.
“I am a seeker of wisdom,” she said. “This is not a religion, it is an organization.” She said the movement has made her more aware of the power of technology and science to improve human lives.
Several audience members voiced skepticism after the presentation.
“Scientists in America have so much money and they have not discovered UFOs—why have you?” one student asked.
“Just look into the sky and you will see the UFOs,” Lee Ki-Tae replied.
Som Leung Ny, 55, the director of the Preah Vihear provincial department of industry, also voiced doubt. “I have been interested in UFOs for a long time, but I am not convinced,” he said.
Sun Kim Hun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religion, said Monday that people can disseminate any religion in Cambodia as long as it does not affect Buddhism or morality.
“This group is strange,” he said, adding that the ministry will monitor its activities in Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)