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Plow ceremony's happy return

Plow ceremony's happy return

A CROWD of about 15,000 gathered to watch the first Royal Ploughing Ceremony in

25 years on May 28, which with ended predictions of bountiful crops of rice,

corn and beans.

The colorful ceremony marks the beginning of the

country's planting season and is traditionally overseen by His Majesty King

Norodom Sihanouk, whose absence at the peace talks in Pyongyang was lamented by

many in the crowd.

The Deputy President of the National Assembly Loy

Simcheng stepped into the breach after some controversy over who should take

over, with most of the country's leaders also at the talks.

"I'm very

sorry we didn't have the King at this ceremony but he must be doing a very big

task," said Ou Ly, a 73-year-old monk attending his first ploughing ceremony. Ly

said he was from central Kompong Thom and had never had a chance to visit Phnom

Penh in the 1960s when the pageant was last held.

His sentiments were

echoed by others. "I'm very happy - very, very happy. I've never seen this

ceremony, said one female drink vendor. She said she wished King Sihanouk could

have attended.

"We miss him very much. If he had been here today we would

be even more happy," she said.

Cambodian farmers can expect a bountiful

harvest of rice, corn and beans according to court officials charged with

appraising the taste buds of eight royal oxen, which were offered a range of

enticing food and drink.

The royal oxen chose the three types of crop

after ploughing a small area at the Olympic Stadium.

The crowd cheered

when the results were announced. It would have been a bad omen for the harvest

if the oxen had eaten the grass and if they had drunk from a cup of wine it

would have signified that great trouble would beset the Kingdom.

"I'm a

young man, so its the first time I've seen this ceremony but my parents and

grandparents told me about it, " said Sarei Phim, a policeman.

"They were

here today and were very, very happy to see this ceremony again - we haven't had

it for a long time."

Simcheng's wife took the role of Queen Me Hour,

whose role it is to scatter rice seed behind her husband's plow.-Reuters

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