I would like to contribute some more stories and knowledge about ghosts, in addition
to Sam Rith's article and classification of ghosts ("Fake blood, they say, keeps
the vampires away," Phnom Penh Post, Sept. 9-22, page 16).
Apart from the ones mentioned in Rith's story, I've found three more evil spirits,
namely Preth, Asorakai and Akruok.
Preth are the unseen evil spirits that roam the pagodas for food offered by their
living relatives, particularly around the Phchum Ben festival between the end of
October and early November.
According to Khmer belief, people who commit wrongdoings, such as killing, stealing,
committing corruption or cheating in the elections, would go to hell (if not to jail
in this life) in the next life. After suffering an unimaginably long time in hell,
they would then become Preth before being reborn as beasts. If they are lucky, they
might be reborn as a human being.
Asorakai are the sort of unseen evil spirits on earth similar to Preth. Some people
call them Preth Asorakai to refer to them both.
Akruok are another kind of large-size invisible spirits wandering the earth. Some
people claim to have caught sight of Akruok, walking astride pagodas or houses when
people are asleep at night.
These are some more kinds of evil spirits commonly known to Khmer people, especially
our young kids, who tend to believe in their existence the most. However, there may
be some other categories of evil spirits unknown to children.
Like discussing politics and corruption in Cambodia, talking about ghosts demands
precaution and the ability to secure protection for oneself.
When some people make mistakes, they usually blame the ghosts. One would stop his
or her friend from teasing them with a gun or a knife "lest the ghost pushes
the hands" and kills somebody.
[ When people cannot find the guy who has broken wind, they would then say, "This
means it's the ghost who did it." However, they may carefully not lay the blame
on the ghosts if they are near the graveyard at nighttime. If they do, they may show
their clean pair of heels upon hearing an unfamiliar denial: "Who said I broke
wind? I didn't do it." ]
If children cannot find something, they often chant Khmaoch yok leak, a'khvark rok
kheunh (Hidden by the ghosts, it'll be found by the blind).
Sometimes, it works. However, a veteran ghost expert who asked not to be named suggests
that one should also go to the police if he or she loses a motorbike or a car in
case he or she has wrongly and unfairly blamed the ghosts.
This is some additional knowledge about ghosts I gained working at the Phnom Penh
Post during the early and mid-1990s. For more stories about ghosts, readers can read
Post issues from 1993 and 1994.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, Senior Ghost Reporter, Phnom Penh