IN the shrine room of the unfinished house behind Wat Sansam Kosal, Phnom Penh,
half a dozen people are waiting to consult the spirit of Oun Nuy (Little Brother
Nuy). They hold plastic dishes filled with candles and incense, wads of cash and
The spirit they await has a boyish nature but is renowned for his astute political
foresight, uncanny powers of medical diagnosis and his predilection for candies and
plastic toys. The shrine overflows with toys - dancing dolls, transformers, grinning
apes and the whole Walt Disney family of plastic action-figures.
These are modern tastes for a spirit that claims he was a victorious commander in
the army of Jayavarman VII (1181-1218), once a brave and noble leader but destined
to live for ever as an elf-spirit after he lost a wager with the two celebrated sisters
Preah Ang Chek and Preah Ang Cham.
Each day for the last six years, Oun Nuy has supposedly possessed the body of 34-year-old
former dance and acting student Kim Pheary.
Oun Nuy made his entrance into Pheary's life in 1992, when during a serious illness
the spirit appeared and threatened to drive Pheary insane if she didn't give him
a place in her life.
Since then Pheary and her spiritual assistant have developed a reputation for medical
diagnosis and treatment. Examining a patient's hands, she claims to be able to map
an illness's symptoms and find the causes.
Pheary presents skeptical visitors with an impressive record of success.
She claims to have discovered the gastric problems behind an army officer's heart
and liver condition, a case that had baffled medical doctors. In another case she
diagnosed a man with encephalitis.
Although unable to cure his illness, Pheary told him she could extend his life by
a few years. He ignored her advice and went to Vietnam where his diagnosis was confirmed.
He supposedly died the following month.
Her healing hands are also reputed to be matched by political nous. On the day of
the Post's visit (November 17) the spirit spoke at length with a client in the United
States and predicted George W Bush would be the next American President.
The spirit has also been consulted on domestic political affairs.
Days before the 1997 street fighting, Pheary says the First Prime Minister, Prince
Norodom Ranariddh, invited her to his house. The spirit told the Prince that within
four days the roads would be blocked and his house surrounded.
"If you stay, make sure you win," he was told. "If you are not sure
of victory, you must flee."
Pheary says Ranariddh was persuaded to accept the prediction by his wife (who Pheary
says has developed a special fondness for the spirit and showered Pheary with gifts),
and so fled the country. On July 5 Second Prime Minister Hun Sen moved to take control
of the Government.
Pheary says Hun Sen also got word of the spirit's predictions before the 1997 events
and invited her to his residence. Hun Sen supposedly made his wife Bun Rany leave
the room and Pheary was forced to swear an oath of secrecy. She still refuses to
reveal details of the consultation.
More recently Pheary says the spirit was consulted by officials from both the CPP
and Funcinpec parties about the outcome of the 1998 election. Again, advice was given
Pheary offers her spiritual consultations most afternoons after 2pm. (In the mornings
the Oun Nuy studies with an old teacher in Kirirom Park.) If you want to consult
the spirit avoid rainy days as these displease Oun Nuy and if he comes, it may not
be for long.
Offering: 5 candies, 2 candles, a packet of incense and 5500 riel.