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Cows snub rice at ceremony

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Prince Norodom Chakravuth is carried by attendants at the start of the Royal Ploughing Ceremony yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The predictions are in: corn and beans.

That’s what Cambodian farmers should plant this season, according to yesterday’s bovine oracle that is the traditional Royal Ploughing Ceremony.

The annual ceremony, held in front of Phnom Penh’s National Museum beside the Royal Palace, marks the beginning of agricultural production and the rainy season.

King Norodom Sihamoni and National Assembly president Heng Samrin presided over the ceremony that was also attended by Prince Norodom Chakravuth and Princess Sisowath Chansita, who wore brightly coloured traditional Khmer costumes to mark the occasion.

After about an hour of ceremonial ploughing on a grassy field, a pair of Royal Oxen doubled down on corn and beans, overlooking other offerings such as sesame and rice.

Also snubbed was wine, which, if consumed, portends disaster for crops.

The Royal Oxen also ate grass, which the Royal Palace’s soothsayer said indicated that cows, buffalo and horses may face diseases over the coming season.

The soothsayer didn’t forget to give a nod to other external factors that might influence crop growth.

“We would like to pray that the rain and weather will be regular and will bring high production of agriculture,” he said.

The oxens’ choice made 52-year-old farmer Em Panha “worried that rice production this year might be not good enough because the oxen did not eat rice – maybe there will be flooding in the coming planting season”.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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