Cambodians use scarecrows to scare away the coronavirus

01:35

Cambodians use scarecrows to scare away the coronavirus

In Cambodia, coronavirus ‘scarecrows’ deployed by farmers to ward off infection

  • The effigies known as ‘Ting Mong’ often pop up in villages that have been hard-hit by infectious diseases like dengue or waterborne diarrhoea
  • Cambodia appears to escaped the brunt of the pandemic, with 283 infections and no deaths, though sceptics say the low toll is caused by a lack of testing

Topic |   Cambodia
Cambodians use scarecrows to scare away the coronavirus

01:35

Cambodians use scarecrows to scare away the coronavirus

Armed with a stick, a floral-shirted ‘scarecrow’ with a plastic pot for a head stands guard in front of a rural home in
Cambodia
– a sentry erected by superstitious farmers to ward off the coronavirus.

Known as Ting Mong in Khmer, the creatively rendered scarecrows often pop up in villages that have been hard-hit by infectious diseases like dengue or waterborne diarrhoea.

This time, “I’ve set up the Ting Mong to prevent the coronavirus from threatening my family,” said farmer Sok Chany, 45.

She has two posted in front of her wooden stilt home in Kampong Cham province, about 110 kilometres northeast of the capital Phnom Penh.

A ’Ting Mong’ is pictured tied to a fence in front of Sok Chany’s house in Cambodia's Kampong Thom province. Photo: AFP
A ’Ting Mong’ is pictured tied to a fence in front of Sok Chany’s house in Cambodia's Kampong Thom province. Photo: AFP

The other is dressed in camo-green and has a stick propped like a rifle across its hay-stuffed chest.

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“It is our ancient superstition to set up Ting Mong when there are dangerous diseases or to avert evil,” she said.

The majority Buddhist kingdom has a strong strain of animism incorporated into the daily lives and rituals of Cambodians, with many believing that spirits are tied to places, animals and things.

The Ting Mong are meant to ward off evil spirits wishing to bring harm on an unsuspecting family by spreading disease.

Members of Ton Pheang’s family prepare a ‘Ting Mong’ in front of their home in Kampong Cham province. Photo: AFP
Members of Ton Pheang’s family prepare a ‘Ting Mong’ in front of their home in Kampong Cham province. Photo: AFP

In Sok Chany’s Trapeang Sla village, no chances are taken – an effigy is tied to the gate of nearly every home, though constructed with varying degrees of effort.

Some are elaborately dressed in military uniform or floral pyjamas, while others simply have stuffed bags with sunglasses perched on them for a head.

Farmer Ton Pheang stuffs old clothing up the arm of his Ting Mong, which is dressed in a bright pink shirt and has a helmet for its head.

I’ll continue to leave it up as long as Covid-19 still exists Ton Pheang, Cambodian farmer

“This is my second one – the first one broke,” the 55-year-old says, adding that his scarecrow has been standing guard under sun and rain since April when the outbreak started spreading rapidly across Southeast Asia.

“We’ve been fine since the outbreak,” Ton Pheag said. “I’ll continue to leave it up as long as Covid-19 still exists.”

Cambodia appears to escaped the brunt of the pandemic, registering just 283 infections and no deaths – though sceptics say the low toll is caused by a lack of testing.

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