Predicted ‘doomsday’ flops, sect followers trickling home

The Phnom. Penh Post, Cambodia/September 1, 2022

By Lay Samean

More people who believed in doomsday predictions by Khem Veasna – the outspoken president of the League for Democracy Party (LDP) who recently pronounced himself “universe protecting brahma” – have begun to disband and return home as six of LDP staunch activists have come forward to admit mistakes for helping mobilise the followers at Kulen Mountain.

Veasna’s doomsday claims and call for mass gathering at his sprawling plantation to escape the purported apocalypse had attracted tens of thousands of his supporters, not only those within the country but also many others who have been working abroad, notably in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

The move had aroused concerns among senior labour officials who feared that this could affect the honour of Cambodian migrant workers at large and tarnish the country’s image as a whole.

The followers first began vacating Veasna’s farm in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district on August 30 on the order of the provincial authorities, who gave them an ultimatum to leave or face legal action.

Provincial hall spokesman Liv Sokhon said on September 1 that they have returned home because they had lost faith as there were no floods as predicted by Veasna.

“On August 30, a small number of followers returned to their homes, but on August 31 an estimated 1,000 followers left the plantation. More and more have abandoned the site since,” he added.

Speaking at the gathering, Sokhon said provincial authorities have prepared trucks to take them back home and have also prepared ambulances, fire engines and provided them with food.

He said authorities were not permitting entrance to the plantation and were only allowing people to depart. Most of Veasna’s more superstitious followers were slow to leave, with some core LDP members remaining on site.

The six staunch LDP activists have signed a letter admitting their mistakes and promising not to repeat their offence.

“We admit that we are wrong for organising the August 23-30 gathering at the 12ha plantation and the 25ha of land which belongs to [LDP member] Ny Chan Pinith in Tbeng commune’s Thmar Chul village,” said their letter.

Chan Pinith told The Post that a team had told the followers to abandon the site; however, there are some who seemed reluctant to leave because of personal matters.

“I do not know how many have left and how many remain. That being said, I have noticed an uptick in the number of departures,” he said.

“I have informed them that the provincial authorities had had instructed the gathering to disband, so those who stay are now personally responsible for their own decisions. I have warned people that we do not have enough rice and food to feed all of the attendees,” he added.

On August 31, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the provincial administration to closely monitor the situation and called on the public not to maintain tolerance and refrain from discriminating against the followers.

“I call on the authorities – as well as the armed forces – to check that the site is hygienic and that no disease is present. I also call on family members and local residents who have a difference in opinion over Veasna’s call to gather not discriminate against the followers,” he said.

Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour said that from August 23-25 August, at least 500 Cambodian workers had returned to Cambodia from abroad. Among them, over 400 had returned from South Korea and around 100 from Japan.

Sour called on them to be careful and not to believe in superstitions in the future.

“The abandoning of jobs by these followers has affected the honour and the reputation of all workers from Cambodia. This has in turn had a detrimental effect on those Cambodians who are seeking employment in South Korea and Japan. More importantly, their activities have affected their and the relationships with their family members,” he said.

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