Ethnic Tumpoun residents from Ratanakkiri’s Banlung district sent petitions to authorities yesterday to protest plans to erect a Buddha statue at Yeak Loam Lake, saying it will bring bad luck to their villages.
The statue, donated by a Buddhist charity, is slated to be built near the lake in December and is intended for tourists visiting the popular destination.
“We just want a Buddha statue in the area because there are tourists, from Phnom Penh and other provinces, who are Buddhists and want to pray for luck at the lake,” said Buddhist Ngoun Chantry.
But ethnic minority residents, who make up the majority of the local population are vehemently opposing the idea.
“There has never been a Buddhist statue at the Yeak Loam Lake until now. We only obey the spirits of the wild and the animals, and this statue is against our beliefs,” said villager Mong Vicheat.
According to Yeak Loam Lake researcher Meas Ny, the ethnic minority groups believe that the new statue will bring tragedy, natural crises and sickness to their members.
“They’re rejecting the planning because they think it will bring bad luck to them,” Ny said. “The minority group is really strict in their religious belief. Every year, they always obey . . . the spirit who looks after the resort at the lake,” he said.
Yeak Loam commune chief Pi Loung said they have requested a study on the implications of building the Buddha statue near the lake.
“The provincial authority will order officials to study the place and whether authorities should allow the Buddha statue to be built,” Loung said.
“What’s important is that we do not see a dispute over religious beliefs.”