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Villagers pray to coconut tree


Villagers worship a coconut tree, which they believe to be magic, in Banteay Meanchey province. Photograph: supplied

Over the past week, hundreds of villagers in Banteay Meanchey’s Thmor Pouk district have made the trek to a tiny yard in Banteay Chhmar commune to worship a coconut tree they believe possesses a magic healing spirit.

The owner of the bizarre 18-trunked coconut palm, Sar Yuk, 75, said he had no idea the three-year-old tree possessed special powers until a fortune-teller insisted the unusual garden feature was the key to healing a long-standing leg injury.

“The fortune-teller told me to offer sacrificial objects [fruit, food, incense and money] to the coconut tree to receive its healing powers,” said Yuk, who has spent the past three years forced to walk with a stick or shuffle across the ground on his buttocks.

Yuk said he listened to the fortune-teller and, after a day of preparing small sacrifices and praying, he was able to walk completely unaided.

“I can walk and eat a lot [now]. That is the difference since I prayed to the coconut tree,” Yuk said.

“There are a lot of people from near my village and some from other provinces who have now come to ask the coconut tree to cure their diseases,” Yuk said, adding that monks had performed a blessing ceremony on the site and villagers were making sacrificial offerings to him and the tree.

Fortune-teller Sam Nath said that on meeting Yuk, he immediately knew a healing spirit was close by.

“The more special the spirit, the more tree trunks will appear,” Nath said in reference to the coconut tree’s 18 trunks.

“I don’t want the people to just believe me, but they can come to see by themselves,” he said.

Commune chief Vain Sam Oun said yesterday he had heard about the tree, and although he did not believe it was a scam, he would not encourage villagers to trust the tree.

“[But] It is their right to believe in the spirit, and I do not prohibit them from doing that,” Sam Oun said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at



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