At 9:12am on Saturday, Cambodia’s devout can expect the arrival of Moha Thorathevey, an angel on a peacock holding a trident in one hand and an auspicious serrated wheel in the other.
The angel, who has a liking for water hyacinths, will usher in the annual Khmer New Year holidays, with the expectation that worshippers will have a bevy of items ready for her arrival.
“Greet the angel with a white tablecloth, two bottles of perfume, five candles, five incense sticks, 11 types of fruit, two glasses of clean water,” read the instructions in this year’s Moha Sangkran almanac, the country’s spiritual guide to the coming year.
The colourful book has been released every year since 1998 by the Ministry of Cults and Religion just before Khmer New Year.
It is based on the predictions of Im Borin, an undersecretary of state at the ministry and official at the National Committee for Organizing National and International Festivals.
Borin would not divulge all the secrets of his process to The Post this week, but he said his predictions incorporate knowledge from various cultures, including Cambodia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as mathematical analysis.
“I started writing the Moha Sangkran book in 1998. And this kind of method is not only used in our country, but used in different countries, such as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India also uses this,” he said.
The reason Borin was so short on details this year may be due to its ominous predictions – especially for the Khmer New Year holiday.
Thorathevey’s visit on Saturday, he predicts, will coincide with some sort of disaster in the middle of the city. The remaining two days will not see any inauspicious events, except the King losing his temper, though it is unclear why.
“There will be a disastrous incident in the centre of the city/town, otherwise there is vicious wildfires, cruel forest thieves and the people infected with serious diseases,” reads the dire prediction.
‘Punish the officials’
The forecast follows a government announcement that it had thwarted an alleged terrorist plot planned at Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom, the heart of the capital.
Thorathevey’s dark influence will continue seven days after Khmer New Year, the almanac predicts, when the “weak will punish the powerful”.
“Civilians will punish the officials and cause chaos in their minds,” the almanac reads, a prediction that seemingly reflects the government’s contention of plots of revolution afoot – the justification for having dissolved the opposition party and jailed its leader, Kem Sokha.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said he will wait for Khmer New Year to see if any of the predictions come true, admitting that public officials would incur the anger of the public if they didn’t perform their duties.
“As senior [officials] if you don’t do the right thing or don’t do it correctly and it affects the interests of the people and the nation, the people will definitely condemn them and punish them,” he said.
The angel’s discerning palette will also have environmentalists on alert, as according to Borin she savours the meat of the endangered red munjtac, with tradition demanding that her favourite food be presented to her on arrival.
Chheng Navy, a 56-year-old vendor at Phsar Kabko, said that tradition would have to be bucked this year on account of availability.
“I know the angel eats the deer meat. I will not put it for the angel because it is almost impossible to find it in Phnom Penh,” she said.
Sao Sopheap, Environment Ministry spokesman, said despite religious beliefs, authorities will continue to prevent the killing of protected species.
“We don’t worry there could be shooting or animal hunting,” he said.
Some of the almanac’s predictions seem to contradict themselves, for example simultaneous low water levels in rivers and lakes alongside a bounty of rain across the country to flood rice fields and boost harvests.
Fellow seer sceptical
Despite his experience, Borin does have his critics, like Phsar Kabko fortuneteller Sao Voleak, who contended that an angel landing in the morning was actually a good omen, unlike last year when the angel Kemera Devi descended at night-time.
“If something happens at night then it is hard for us to deal with. Like traffic accidents happen often at night-time,” she said.
She isn’t completely dismissive of Borin, admitting that the Saturday angel was not a good omen, and that small incidents may occur during the July national elections.
“That is just so that people need to be cautious,” she says in a hushed voice. “We know there is an election in July, so there might be tiny issues caused by the extremist opposition party.”