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Wat Phnom sooth-sayers face eviction

Wat Phnom sooth-sayers face eviction

It wasn't in the cards, the fortune tellers said, but another eviction is coming.

This time about 30 men and women who make their living by predicting the future in

huts across from Wat Phnom are being told to move.

With the area slated for development of a public park, the rental contract between

Phnom Penh Municipality and Jing San Investment company, who rents the land to the

vendors, will be cancelled.

Two of the fortune-tellers told the Post the eviction notice they received in early

December telling them to leave by January 1 was entirely unforeseen.

As the women sat under the faint light of a battery powered globe in their thatched

roof hut one evening last week, they examined the array of cards on the table before

them.

"They cut the power off two weeks ago," Chantha, the assistant for Vietnamese

fortune-teller Hun, explained, as two rats chased each other across the hut's dirt

floor and mosquitoes swarmed in the darkness. "Most places close around 5pm

now."

Hun said she came to Phnom Penh 26 years ago and began making a living as a snacks

and drinks vendor. Back then, she said, no one else was working in the area. Later

on, about ten years ago, when fortune-tellers moved in, she realized she also shared

the talent and started her new trade.

But her powers of clairvoyance failed her when it came to the coming eviction.

"We didn't know because we didn't think about that," she said. "When

you want to know the answer to something you have to ask the cards. But we had no

idea so we didn't know to ask this question."

Hun and Chantha said they average two or three customers a day who pay 10,000 riel

to have their futures read from the cards. The price of a palm reading is 5,000 riel.

Hun said that she doesn't know where they will go after the eviction and the information

is not available in the cards.

"A fortune teller can not foretell their own future," she said. She cited

the Khmer proverb, "A knife cannot cut its own handle."

Hun and Chantha do pay rent for the land where they practice their trade. A small

plot costs $20 a month but some of the bigger ones with noodle shops on them run

up to $60. The two women have a rental contract, but since neither of them can read

they said they weren't clear on the details.

Although their own future is uncertain, Hun, Chantha and their colleagues will continue

to foretell the destiny of others for another month. Originally scheduled for January

1, the eviction was postponed for a month due to complaints. They have agreed to

leave on February 1.

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