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
"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
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
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
"But I know I must have discipline. If I am weak and
do bad things, the good spirits will abandon me," he