Thousands of people flocked to a village in Kampong Cham’s Kampong Siem district yesterday to worship and pray to eight pythons they believe bring good luck and stave off illness, villagers and police claimed.
After the pythons were caught near a river in Ampil commune and handed over to wildlife officers, residents of Banteay Thmor village began reporting high levels of anxiety and nightmares about the reptiles, district police chief Tak Cheat said.
Word soon spread that the eight pythons were deities that had been protecting the villagers for more than 100 years.
An agreement was quickly made to return them to the village, where people soon began arriving in hordes to see them.
“The female and male weigh about 10kg each and their children about 7kg each,” Cheat said, adding that villagers were preparing a temporary “cave” for them in the centre of the village.
A seven-day ceremony of happiness was organised to raise the money needed to build a new habitat back near where they had been found, he added.
Villager Yin Sarun, 32, said he had been involved in digging the pythons out of a hole on the day they were discovered.
“We do not know if they are pythons or holy pythons, but villagers have had nightmares telling them that these are the deities,” he said. “Some villagers are ill right now. If the pythons are not taken back to the same place, the whole village will be faced with a big problem.”
Chea Sopharith, a Forestry Administration official in Kampong Cham province, said he had agreed to return the pythons to villagers because they had promised to protect them.
Officials would continue to monitor the pythons in case any villagers tried to steal them to sell them on to illegal traders, he added.
“I think I also believe in these pythons,” he said. “When they took them out of the hole, villagers tried to set fire to the grass – but it did not burn.”