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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Cambodia to enjoy good crops this year, astrologer predicts

SIEM REAP, May 2, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- A Cambodian royal astrologer predicted Sunday at one of the ancient temples in the Angkor Wat complex that Cambodia will have ''good'' agricultural crops this year.

Astrologer Korng Keng told a crowd of tens of thousands at Lean Chul Damrei Temple in Siem Reap Province that the country's crops, especially corn and beans, will be ''good.''

He made the prediction at a ceremony to mark the beginning of the rainy season in Cambodia, drawing his conclusions from the results of the Royal Plowing Ceremony.

The ceremony in Siem Reap is the first since 1967 when then Crown Prince, later King, Norodom Sihanouk presided over the plowing.

This year, Sihanouk's son King Norodom Sihamoni watched over the traditional welcome to the growing season along with thousands of government officials, diplomats, foreign visitors and Cambodians.

The ceremony is usually held annually near the royal palace in Phnom Penh at the start of the planting season.

But Thong Khon, minister of tourism, said the ceremony was in Siem Reap this year because the timing coincides with the first great Buddhist tourism event ''The Trail of Civilization and Art Performance'' at Angkor Wat in which more than 100,000 participants, including those from nine other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea and India.

It is also being used to attract more tourists to Angkor Wat.

Tourism is Cambodia's second-largest income earner after the garment sector and Angkor Wat is the main target for foreign tourists in Cambodia.

According to government statistics, despite a decline in tourism worldwide because of the global economic crisis, Cambodia achieved an increase of 1.7 percent in foreign arrivals last year to 2,161,577.

And in the first three months of 2010, 683,692 international tourists visited Cambodia, an increase of 9.87 percent from the same three months last year.

In the Royal Plowing Ceremony, seven golden trays -- holding rice, corn, beans, sesame, grass, water or rice wine -- are laid out for a pair of royal oxen and predictions for the coming growing season are made from the choices made by the oxen when they reach the trays.

This year, the oxen ate most of the corn and beans, indicating Cambodian farmers will have ''good'' crops at least for these two products in 2010.

According to the royal astrologer, if the oxen eat the grass it means bad luck for farmers because insects may attack the crops.

If they drink the rice wine it means turmoil, fighting or robbery in the country.

But this year, the oxen ate no grass, rice or sesame and drank no water or rice wine.

Drinking water indicates lots of water for cropping, while eating sesame indicates a big harvest.

Last year, when the oxen ate all the corn and beans, Korng Keng predicted ''quite good crops'' for Cambodian farmers.

And Cambodia produced about 7.3 million tons of rice in 2009, leaving a surplus of nearly 3 million tons for export.

Chan Sarun, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, recently said Cambodia is expected to become one of the world's major rice exporters when a long-term plan to increase land under rice cultivation to 3.5 million hectares from the current 2.6 million hectares is complete.

Rice production then is estimated to reach 12.25 million tons annually.

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