[camnews] News: July 9, 96 (fwd)

Vance Geiger (geiger@PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU)
Tue, 9 Jul 1996 15:24:30 -0400

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 09 Jul 1996 11:13:28 -0700
From: Houn-Nam Ing <hing@engr.csulb.edu>
To: camnews@lists.best.com
Subject: [camnews] News: July 9, 96

FEATURE - Cambodian tattoos protect only so far
Reuters News
9 Jul 2:49

By Leo Dobbs
PHNOM PENH, July 9 (Reuter) - Lieutenant General Nhek Bun Chhay, like
countless Cambodian fighting men over the centuries, wears a blanket of
tattoos across his chest and a string of talismans and boar tusks around his
``It is a Cambodian belief to have this protection against bullets,''
the armed forces deputy chief of staff told Reuters, before claiming: ``Many
times I have been shot at but never hit.''
While the stocky general and Cambodia's tattoo masters swear by the
power of the ancient designs, maimed soldiers in hospitals around the
country seem to tell another story about the efficacy of the pictorial
panaceas and magic medallions they sport.
``Before I believed in it very much, but I don't rely on it after I lost
my right forearm in a mine blast,'' said Hem Saron, 29, at Phnom Penh's
Preah Ket Mealea military hospital, adding that the chest tattoos had
protected him for eight years.
``The magic's gone from my body...for the first one or two years it was
strong, then it became less and less and now it's gone,'' added the
intelligence agent who lost his limb while on a mission against Khmer Rouge
guerrillas last January.
Keo Vibol, a tattoo master whose body is a blue-black blur of ink
animals, ancient script, ornate designs and human figures, acknowledges the
magic can fail but maintains this is because the wearer has not followed the
instructions of his kru (teacher).
``When the person with the tattoo does something wrong and forgets what
their teacher said, something will happen to him,'' said the former monk
turned soldier, who has pricked protective images on to the skins of
thousands of soldiers and civilians.
General Nhek Bun Chhay, who has been wearing tattoos for more than 15
years, agreed, saying: ``Some men who have this are protected, some not --
you have to do some good deeds.''
Keo Vibol takes great care in the preparation and execution of the
tattoos after his clients have chosen from hundreds of designs, some
centuries old, that he has been carrying for years in tattered notebooks and
on scraps of paper.
``I use a special needle and make a special (Buddhist) sermon to the
needle so when it pierces the skin it can't bleed or hurt,'' the 43-year-old
army major said, before practising his art on a grim-faced colleague as
incense burned on a nearby altar.
The rusty-looking needle, more like a dart that had been fitted onto the
end of an umbrella spoke, was charged with black ink made from animal bile.
Keo Vibol kept up a continuous chant as he jabbed the needle in and out of
the chest flesh.
He says his own tattoos have protected him from mines and bullets for
the past two decades, while his wife Sang Savin swears to the properties of
the simple but distinctive tattoos that cross the top of her chest and run
down one calf and a forearm.
Sang Savin firmly believes in their power and recalls an incident from
when she had lived at a guerrilla camp during the 1980s civil war. ``At one
time I followed my husband and the person without tattoos who kept behind me
stepped on a mine. But I was all right and so was my husband.''
Siv Toun, deputy head of Phnom Penh University's history department,
said Chinese visitors to Cambodia wrote in the 1st Century A.D. that the
locals went around naked ``and one could clearly see tattoos on the skin.''
He said this period, known as the Funan era, was one of hand-to-hand
combat between protagonists armed with axes, spears and swords and the
tattoos were ``to protect against the weapons.''
Son Soubert, a senior parliamentarian and French-educated intellectual,
said the use of tattoos to ward off evil and misfortune probably came to
Cambodia centuries ago with Indian settlers who practised Vedic (ancient
Hindu) rituals.
``The tattoo's supposed to have some magic...it's a kind of mantra
(Vedic hymn) and yantra. The design is called yantra and the text is called
mantra,'' added the MP.
He said neighbouring Thais believed tattoos bearing the Khmer script
were more powerful and ``they still use the Khmer script.''
Many soldiers, like Nhek Bun Chhay and Keo Vibol, also believe in the
power of animal teeth, talismans and Buddha images, which are placed in the
mouth for protection during the heat of battle.
But cynics relate the tale of 22-year-old Singaporean disc jockey Chiang
Hock Guan who bought a talisman for $1,500 from a Cambodian last year and
then insisted on testing its magic powers -- he died later that day from a
bullet wound in the stomach.
Defence Secretary of State Ek Sereywath said not everyone wore tattoos
and talismans as protective devices but rather as lures, explaining: ``Some
playboys have this to attract women.''
Reut02:50 07-09-96

Copyright 1996, Reuters News Service


Weather forces Sihanouk to postpone return home
Reuters News
9 Jul 5:16

PHNOM PENH, July 9 (Reuter) - Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk was forced to
postpone plans to return home on Tuesday when bad weather forced his plane
to return to Beijing, a palace official.
Sihanouk, who has been away from his homeland since late April, was
scheduled to arrive at Pochentong Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
He had earlier postponed his planned return twice for health reasons and
because of a press article that angered him.
The official said he did not know when Sihanouk would now fly to Phnom
Penh but diplomats expected him back on Wednesday.
His planned return would have come one day after co-Premiers Prince
Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen flew to Tokyo to take part in an important
international donors' meeting.
Sihanouk left for France in April and extended his overseas visit at a
time when relations between the two premiers plummeted because of
Ranariddh's demands for a greater share of power for his royalist FUNCINPEC
party in the coalition.
Hun Sen threatened to use force to prevent any attempt to break up the
government or the parliament.
The king originally decided to return home from China at the end of May,
shortly after the killing of an anti-government journalist, in a bid to
defuse the political tension.
That visit was postponed when Sihanouk suffered a mini stroke that left him
temporarily paralysed on one side of his body and a later planned return
last month was put back after a French paper said Hun Sen wanted him to live
in North Korea or China.
Reut05:16 07-09-96

Copyright 1996, Reuters News Service

| Houn-Nam Ing | E-mail: hing@engr.csulb.edu |
| WWW: http://www.engr.csulb.edu/~hing/ |
| ``If I live, I will fight, wherever I must, as long as I must, |
| until the enemy is defeated and the national stain washed clean.'' |
o------------------------- Charles de Gaulle -------------------------o

CamNews is for news and announcements about Cambodia ONLY.
You need to read the Monthly Informational Posting BEFORE
you send messages to the list. You can get a copy of this
Informational Posting by pointing your Web Browser to
<http://www.cambodia.org/news/rules.txt>. General posts
can be sent to camdisc@cambodia.org