royal ox looked toward King Norodom Sihamoni as another ate corn during the annual
Royal Ploughing Ceremony, held this year on May 26.
Each year the cows are offered seven bowls - rice, corn, beans, sesame, wine, water
and grass - and their choices are believed to forecast the success of the year's
harvest and social well-being.
This year the oxen ate 90 percent of the rice and 95 percent of both the corn and
beans, signifying a plentiful harvest for 2005, proclaimed royal astrologer Soeung
Kimleang. They steered clear of the wine (believed to signify violence), water (flood)
and grass (illness).
The ancient ceremony was attended by the King, various government VIPs, monks, and
around 4,000 members of the public.
Schoolchildren, farmers, tourists and Phnom Penh residents all watched the culinary
preferences of the royal oxen with interest, but others remained skeptical.
"My prediction: abundant crops and more hunger," said one Cambodian onlooker
who has attended the ritual in previous years.
Earlier in the ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister and co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng
symbolically ploughed circuits of the field beside the Royal Palace as his wife scattered
rice seeds behind him.
Top officials - including Prime Minister Hun Sen, President of the Senate Chea Sim,
and President of the National Assembly Prince Norodom Ranariddh - did not attend