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Spirit revenge rumored

Spirit revenge rumored

Villagers make offerings of apology at Te Touk Pos hot spring on March 20.

More than 500 people gathered by the edge of the Te Touk Pos hot spring in Aural

District of Kampong Speu on March 20 to make offerings of apologies following rumors

that numerous treasure hunters who had descended on the area in recent weeks had

mysteriously sickened and died.

The "golden spring" has been the focus of a treasure hunt by hundreds of

locals and outsiders drawn by reported discoveries of gold, jewelry and suspected

Angkorian artefacts on the site in recent weeks.

While Kampong Speu First Deputy Governor Yim Sokhom was unable to confirm whether

the reported deaths of the looters were true, he said the rumors were already taking

on a life of their own.

"Eight of 10 people consulted by provincial officials about these rumors insisted

that people had died after taking away artefacts and gold from the spring,"

Sokhom said. "We're still trying to confirm what is happening."

A telling indication of the power of the rumors of harm befalling those who have

looted the site was the presence of Sokhom and other provincial officials at the

March 20 ceremony in which a new spirit house was unveiled adjacent to the hot spring.

General Keo Pong, Deputy Commander of Military Region 3 and former Khmer Rouge commander

of the Aural region, is also a believer in the lethal spiritual power of the hot

spring. Pong told the Post he had personal knowledge of the death of an elderly woman

said to have taken the first artefact from the site in February.

According to Pong, shortly before her death the woman had dreamed that a spirit had

told her that 100 cows and 10 people would have to die because of the looting.

Pong's belief in the malevolent nature of the spring "spirits" is evident

in his role as one of the organizers of the apology ceremony.

Vanna, 20, was one of those in attendance who swore that woe had befallen his family

since he recently took home a small "telephone shaped" stone that he'd

found by the edge of the spring.

According to Vanna, shortly after she brought the stone to his house, his brother

and nephew promptly "disappeared".

More disturbingly, he said after he put the stone on the household shrine that also

held the photos and ashes of his grandparents, both photos and ashes inexplicably

fell to the ground.

"I really believe that all the things that happened in my house were caused

by that piece of rock," he said. He had since discarded the spring souvenir

out of fear for his and his family's wellbeing.

In front of the new spirit house, five ethnic Suoy elders told the Post that the

villagers were praying that the spirits that dwell in and around the spring would

punish only those who had desecrated the site.

"We want the spirits to punish the looters, not us," a 73-year-old Suoy

elder said. "We have never touched these sacred objects."

True believers take water and sand from the spring.

Others busied themselves filling up water containers of all sizes due to the water's

reputed effects in successfully treating skin diseases and "increasing vigor".

"We have come here not to seek treasure," said Chiem Nhoeng, 77, a resident

of nearby Tronop commune. "We just want to pour water over our heads and pray

for help in living a good life."

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