As worries over the global COVID-19 pandemic began to grow,
some Cambodians turned to an old belief to help ease their minds.
MARCH 31, 2020: Let’s face it, this global COVID-19 scenario has been brutal - with a constant stream of morbid headlines triggering confusion and fear for many, anxiety, stress, divisions amongst friends and neighbours, and financial ruin for people and societies around the world. Including, right here in Siem Reap, Cambodia - home to the world famous Angkor Wat archeological complex, which in recent years has been visited by millions of tourists annually.
Unlike recent memory, when the vibrant streets of Siem Reap were bustling with masses of wide-eyed selfie-snapping tourists from around the globe, life in this this bustling and charming little city - where the majority of the population relies heavily on the tourism industry, came to a grinding and devastating halt., with much of its resident population now struggling profoundly.
But as the city began to empty some few months ago, an increasing number of humanoid creatures began to appear in the city’s rural areas.
Known as the Ting Mong, these seemingly fearless scarecrows, often wielding weapons ranging from super soakers, wooden rocket launchers and machetes, to replicas of grenades have certainly made their presence known along the dirt roads I frequently travel along.
“Guardians need their weapons!” explains my dear friend Maden with a slight chuckle as I set off on a mission to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
“They’re used to ward off evil spirits, for protection” I’m told.
With various tales and stories pertaining to their exact origin, I also turned the head monk at my neighbouring Wat Bo Buddhist pagoda. “They’ve been around for at least a hundred years” said the poised spiritual leader, "in the past, to protect families against illnesses and diseases, like leprosy for example…but people use them for emotional comfort.”
Here are a few snapshots of these fearless warriors:
FACE TO FACE WITH THE TING MONG: