T HE Ministry of Tourism has "strictly instructed" soldiers and police around
Angkor Wat not to fire their guns at the solar eclipse next month.
Such heavenly phenomena are pretty much considered a "free-fire zone" in
Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth presumably wants his many overseas visitors safe
from falling lead during the Oct 24 eclipse, which is expected to attract a huge
Whether anyone follows the Minister's advice is moot.
In April this year - during the second day of the Khmer New Year - gunmen chose to
open up at the sky rather than traditionally hitting drums and buckets.
Scenes around Phnom Penh - with tracers skidding around the night sky, and foreigners
wondering where abouts the bullets would eventually fall - looked like a scene from
any of a dozen war movies.
Security around the temple will be beefed up by more than 500 soldiers, both inside
the temple grounds and out, the ministry says.
Provincial chiefs say banditry and theft are a big concern, given that thousands
of visitors are expected to turn up to what is being touted as the best place in
the world to view the eclipse.
Travel agents have reported enormous interest among tourists, with fully-booked flights.
Sereyvuth considered Oct 24 as "the new potential to enhance the glory of the
Khmer cultural heritage". "The solar eclipse... is another wonderful gift
of nature for our Kingdom, and... this event will mark a golden page in our history,"
According to the Ministry's scientific data, on Oct 24 the moon will completely block
the sun and create near total darkness for one minute and 53 seconds, while the partial
eclipse will last around three hours.
The data says the exact path of the eclipse, which will begin at 39 seconds after
10:58am, will be just north of the fabled temple of Angkor Wat.
The Ministry suggests two hill tops in the area as the best locations for watching
the eclipse - Phnom Bakheng between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, and Phnom Krom on
the edge of the Tonle Sap lake.
The Ministry also listed the traditional beliefs and practices among Cambodian people
during a solar or lunar eclipse.
Pregnant women are advised to hold a pot of lime next to their stomach or their baby
will be born mentally retarded.
For a house under construction, a temporary thatch roof must be put up to bring prosperity
to the family.
People will beat drums or buckets to prevent the reahou from swallowing the sun or
Reahou is the name of a mythological demon which occasionally swallows the sun and
moon thus causing eclipses, people believe.
Just how the moon spits out the sun will bring a good or bad effect on the harvest.
It would be a good harvest if the moon spits out the sun from the side, but not out
of its mouth, according to the beliefs. But if the moon spits out the sun from the
bottom, the harvest would have an average yield - not so good and not so bad.