The Prime Minister and the lightning goddess


The thunder-ogre and the lightning-goddess – see here for the legend

I was once told off by a tuktuk driver for getting my Cambodian myths mixed up. I’d said that Eyso was a good guy. No, I was told, Eyso is a very bad guy! And so he is. He’s the god of thunder, engaged in perpetual battle with Moni Mekhala, the beautiful goddess of lightning. As they chase each other through the monsoon storm-clouds Eyso hurls his axe at Moni Mekhala, who deflects it with her magic crystal ball, causing thunder and lightning. The good guy I had in mind was someone else entirely by a similar name. I was embarrassed, of course, but the tuktuk driver forgave me: I was just a dumb foreigner, how could I be expected to know?

Apsara-Dancer-Fight1-1000x666Moni Mekhala-Ream Eyso features in the Classical Cambodian dance repertoire

Anyway, Prime Minister Hun Sen fed up with the opposition CNRP party saying he stole the 2013 election and that the Cambodian Red Cross discriminates between people on the basis of their political affiliation. Last Monday he faced off to CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and drew a line in the incense-ash:  Join me mano-a-mano down at the Preah Ang Doun Kar shrine on the Riverside, he said. We’ll each take an oath, and may lightning strike down the one who lies.

hun-sen-stooge-reutersPrime Minister Hun Sen of the ruling CPP – is that a smile?

Do any parties dare to swear with the CPP at the [Preah] Ang Dangker shrine?” he asked. “If the CPP stole the election, let all of the CPP die through bullets, lightning and everything. Who­ever was the liar, and made the wrong accusations will get the same—the lightning and everything.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 3.12.52 PMOpposition leader Sam Rainsy – does he dare test trial by lightning?

Lightning is not a natural phenomenon in Cambodia. The gods agree – quite an amazing number of people get struck down each year. Does Hun Sen believe what he’s saying? I have no idea. There’s been some discussion on Khmer 440, where someone wisely observes that what the PM says is less important than who he’s talking to – do they believe it? My tuktuk driver certainly does.

100_0614The main image at Preah Ang Doung Kar – it’s called Vishnu though it’s not if you ask me, but nobody asks me. Oaths gentlemen please.

From a useful blog called Cambodia Monster. Interesting that the blogger calls Preah Ang Doung Kar “him,” though it’s strictly the name of the flagpole under which the shrine stands: “Sacred Royal Flagpole”

Postscript: Looks like it’s on. Sam Rainsy says he accepts the challenge, “though a vote recount would be more useful.” More useful, but less entertaining. Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, says this is a “strange” way to settle disputes. But Mao Pises, president of the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students, says e’s a Buddhist himself, “and, as you know, the Cambodian people who follow Buddhism believe our ancestors and especially our heroes and spirits have power here, and will kill or destroy those people who destroy our nation.”