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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A booming belt business

A booming belt business

A booming belt business

THE last twelve months has seen a boom in business for

Cambodian mystic and traditional healer Tep Pornan.

Three flights up the dark and impossibly narrow stairwell

of a tenement in the back blocks of the capital, the

59-year-old stays busy manufacturing belts which he

claims will protect the wearers from the evil intent of

wicked men.

"Many people come seeking protection now because

kidnapping and robbery is so common. So many come that it

is difficult to meet their demands," he said.

Lok Kru Pornan learned his skills from monks he met in

the forests of northern Cambodia while gathering food

during the famine which followed the ousting of the Khmer

Rouge by Vietnamese forces in 1979.

He stayed with the monks for several years and was taught

the 11th century mystic principles which are part and

parcel of the unique form of Buddhism practised in

Cambodia.

The technique involves teaching the basic principles of

non-violence and good intention, followed by ritual

bathing and the wearing of a t'seye thata a belt worn

under the shirt.

The t'seye thata can take many forms in this case it

consists of a

score or so of small squares of lead on which prayers and

incantations are etched in the ancient Pali script.

The sheets are then rolled into narrow tubes about the

diameter of a pencil before being inserted into a hollow

cotton chord which is then tied around the waist.

"The person wearing it can drink and smoke and can

sleep with women if the woman agrees. But if the wearer

commits bad deeds rape or murder or stealing the

protective power will be lost," Lok Pornan said.

"Several of my students have trodden on land mines,

but were not hurt.

"Others have been killed, but that is because they

did not behave well which is needed to ensure the

protection remains."

As he spoke a group of customers gathered in the dark,

smoke- filled workshop, among them 47- year-old Eng

Sereyvuthy who fled Cambodia for France in 1980 before

returning to his native land in 1993.

"Since returning I have been robbed many times.

"People have tried to kill me, so I promised the

Buddha to do good and now seek his protection," he

said.

"But I know I must have discipline. If I am weak and

do bad things, the good spirits will abandon me," he

said.

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