PHNOM PENH – CAMBODIA’S royal oxen shunned rice grain on Saturday during an ancient ceremony to predict the country’s agricultural fortunes – prompting fears of a poor rice harvest among superstitious farmers.
King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the ritual in a park outside the palace where thousands of people watched royal astrologers observing the animals’ behaviour.
After a symbolic ploughing of a portion of the field, a pair of oxen were led to seven dishes – rice, corn, beans, sesame, grass, water and alcohol – laid out on trays.
They were seen eating only corn and beans, allowing the palace’s chief astrologer Kang Ken to declare that this year’s corn and beans harvests will be bountiful.
The astrologer did not spell out to the crowd what it meant for the rice yield, sparking concern among farmers.
‘I am very worried that we will not have a good rice harvest,’ farmer Ros Makara, 52, told AFP after the ceremony, which marks the start of Cambodia’s rainy season, traditionally the time to plant rice. ‘But I will try my best to grow rice. I do not totally rely on the prediction,’ he added. — AFP