Um Mean has spent several years treating the legions of sick and infirm who come to visit him.
The 34-year-old chief of Phnom Penh’s Tronum Chreng Pagoda, Mean practices a tradition of healing which has carried back for four generations.
“The rituals I perform have been passed down since my great-great-grandfather, and the ability is gained by sucking on the big toe of the member of the previous generation for 30 minutes,” the clergyman says.
With a reputation as an effective healer, Mean estimates he has treated about 3000 people from Cambodia’s 24 provinces and further abroad. His specialty is helping those plagued by evil spirits, he says.
“People come from the provinces to see me here,” he says. “Meanwhile, there are some Khmer people from abroad like France, USA, and Australia who also come to see me.”
Mean claims to have helped cure the crippled daughter of a senior government official. In return, he says the official suggested that Mean take her daughter’s hand in marriages a sign of gratitude, an offer which the monk politely declined.
“Sure, I helped to cure the daughter of Her Excellency. She often asked me to leave the monkhood to be her son-in-law too,” he says.
Luan Vay, a 76-year-old villager from Kandal province, says she has spent a lot of time travelling around the country seeking a cure for her illness through both religious and medical means.
She says she appreciates how much better she felt after staying at Tronum Chreng Pagoda for 10 days under Um Mean’s care.
“After my children brought me here, I felt better; I can sleep well, I eat more and from one day to another I feel good,” she says.
Young Kampong Speu villager Sam Leak also appreciated the monk’s services.
“My parents spent lots of money to cure my sickness,” he says. “But it was impossible to recover. However, I came here for only three days to get treatment, and I already feel better.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Sou Vuthy at [email protected]