Hundreds of families, including those belonging to ethnic groups, in four villages in Kratie province’s Chitr Borei district have erected ting mong figures in front of their houses to drive away the evil spirits they believe brought cholera after residents fell sick.
The human-like figures, said to originate in pre-Buddhist animist belief, were put up in Kou Lorb commune’s Banteay, Samrith, Kambor and Kou Lorb villages.
Yin Srin, a Kou Lorb resident, said erecting a ting mong in front of houses is a practice villagers carried out whenever many people fell sick unusually.
“In any year that a lot of villagers unusually fell sick, they become scared and superstitiously put up ting mong to protect themselves. There were three to four family members getting sick per house, so they put up ting mong,” she said.
Chhun Sros, another resident, said although his family thought it strange that his children and grandchildren had fallen sick with fever, diarrhoea and sore throats, he had not erected a ting mong as he believed the illness resulted from the recent extremely hot weather.
“Many villagers became sick. Some had dengue fever. Some who had diarrhoea were said to have cholera, whereas they had in fact eaten something bad."
“There is no need to put up [ting mong] because we can see a doctor. But my son saw other people doing so and he demanded we do the same,” he said.
Extremely hot weather
Kou Lorb commune is experiencing extremely hot weather and is yet to see rain, Sros added. It normally begins to rain in May and villagers would begin ploughing.
Villagers in Kou Lorb commune confirmed they had used straw and wood to make the figures, putting old clothes on them before erecting them in front of their houses. Other residents said they had painted giant figures on the walls and fences of their properties.
Chhum Chhouy, Kou Lorb commune chief, said 5,080 people from 1,256 families lived in his village.
He said many people in his commune had erected ting mong since Khmer New Year in April. This is practised only when many people and animals fall sick, he added.
Recently a 10-year-old girl passed away from dengue fever and more than 10 cows died without reason, he said.
“There is enough water. We use clean water connected from the town and cows drank water from jars, wells and ponds. While the water had not run dry, the extremely hot weather had made some cows suffer stomach problems, dying after only a day and leaving a bad smell,” he said.
Currently, there is no health centre in the commune and villagers have to use the clinic in another area.
Ouk Samin, the director of the nearby Changkrorng commune health centre, told The Post that she was unaware of people in Kou Lorb commune erecting ting mong to ward off cholera and did not know that many residents there had fallen sick.
She said health centre officials were yet to visit Kou Lorb commune this year to educate villagers on health matters.
“The visits will start soon. We will give vaccinations and education on how to stay healthy in extremely hot weather, with education also given on healthcare and hygiene, and how to avoid diarrhoea,” she said.