erikwdavis

What is the Krung Palii Ceremony, and Why is Bun Rany performing it at Preah Vihear? 1.2

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2008 at 5:28 pm

There are a couple of posts over at KI-Media, with pictures, of Bun Rany (Hun Sen) performing the ceremony Krung Palii ក្រុង​ពលី at the site of the Preah Vihear temple.

One of those posts, refers to an originally difficult to source article supposedly from a Thai newspaper, which is supposed to accuse Cambodians of performing a ‘black-magic rite’ to curse the Thai.

The source of the article appears to be the infamously dumb and chauvinistic Nation newspaper, which claims that

Many residents in Si Sa Ket province wore yellow yesterday, ostensibly to help protect Thailand from black-magic spells cast by Khmer “wizards” who met at Preah Vihear during the solar eclipse yesterday.

Bun Rany, the wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, led Buddhist monks and soldiers to the ancient Hindu temple yesterday morning to call upon their ancestors to protect the temple.”The first lady called upon ancestral spirits to chase away the enemy,” Min Khin, chairman of Cambodia’s festival committee, told reporters after the ceremony.

Thai media reports said that the mysterious black-magic spells by Khmer wizards would not only protect the temple but also weaken Thailand. Some astrologers urged locals to wear yellow yesterday to deflect the spells.

Well, there’s no end to stupidity among humanity, and there are indeed a number of events happening today which could strike fear and anger in the hearts of Thai’s stupid nationalists.

First off, today is a Rahu (រាហុ) day – that is, there is an eclipse of the sun scheduled for today. It isn’t supposed to be visible in Southeast Asia, but there you go – we live in a connected world, don’t we. Rahu is a mythical being who swallows the sun, and his days are universally days of misfortune and disaster. Don’t schedule your dissertation defense on such a day! (By the way, the reason we get the sun back is because at one point, Rahu got chopped in half, so he has no stomach – the sun just pops out from his chest, where he got split in two).

Second off, the Thai are generally terrified of Khmer black magic. In many ways, this is just another example of orientalism – the attribution of voodoo magic, black magic, ontological power, to those who have been conquered. Which is not to say that the Khmer (or the Vodun practitioners, or anyone else) do not indeed practice or maybe even have such powers. The point is rather that the stereotyped exceeds the practices and importance of those rites, and attributes them to a defeated, resentful, and ontologically dangerous population.

Finally, yep – there is a ceremony, which the folks over at KI-Media are claiming is a ritual to pray for peace. Well, that’s where I fall off the boat. Sure, it’s not a ceremony promoting war, but peace? That’s a bit of a stretch.

In a book titled លំ​អាន​ទំនៀម​ខ្មែរ​បូរាណ (“Customary Khmer Practices”), a book primarily for Acaarya (អាចារ្យ), the Krung Palii ceremony is described (my translation – if there are requests, I can type the entire article in at some point):

This ceremony comes to us in two types:

A: The ceremony as it comes to us from the ancient Khmer, which is worship of the gods who have placed themselves under (the authority of) the Buddha

B: The ceremony of Buddhism, which has five types:

  1. “All the Petas” Palii (បុព្វ​បេត​ពលី) – A ceremony organized, with sweet rice and desserts, candles and incense, offered to all of those who have died;
  2. “Establishing” Palii (អតិថិ​ពលី) – A ceremony which establishes (a ritual space) and obtains (welcomes, incorporates) those who have been invited into the ceremony [In other words, a ceremony before the main ceremony]
  3. “Relatives” Palii (ញាតិ​ពលី) – A ceremony which establishes (a ritual space) and creates a connection between relatives, to make them know and recognize each other [in other words, a ceremony before the main ceremony, in cases where the ceremony is familial in nature]
  4. “King” Palii (រាជ​ពលី) – A ceremony of respect, according to the laws, habits of the nation (ប្រទេស​ជាតិ) directed to all the power of the state (រដ្ធ), giving orders (or permission)
  5. The “God” Palii (ទេវតា​ពលី) – A ceremony to the gods, for praying to the original gods (ទេចតា​ជា​ដើម).

Whatever else these ceremonies might be, they are not necessarily for peace (though they could certainly establish a ceremony in which praying for peace is the main topic). They also are not ‘black magic.’

Everyone should just get over it.

The Washington Times has a slightly better article on this, also quoting an unnamed ‘Thai group’ regarding the accusation of Khmer Black Magic.

Al Jazeera quotes from the ceremony itself:

Monks and government officials prayed at the ancient temple on Friday in the shadow of armed troops from both sides as the soldiers continued their standoff from just a few metres apart.

Thong Khon, the Cambodian tourism minister, said the 1,000 or so people had gathered “to pray to the souls of our ancestors asking for peace”, referring to Khmer kings who built the temple from the 9th to 11th centuries.

Well, that all sounds positive, and much like the “praying for peace” reported in the above articles. But,

“We also pray for success in our defence of our territory,” he added.

Ahhhh. That’s the Krung Palii I know and love!

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  1. They are just insane. Those Thai newspapers had better stop making up such ridiculous stories. They are only making things worse – rubbing more salt on an already painful wound. I hope the Thai public aren’t too dumb to believe in such a thing.

  2. [...] Eric has more. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Preah Vihear tensionsWednesday, 25.6.2008: The [...]

  3. [...] to worry that a Thai soldier’s ‘mysterious death’ is attributable to the “Black Magic Ritual” recently performed by Bun Rany Hun Sen at Preah Vihear recently. Lordy. Special to the Thai [...]

  4. [...] pm I’ve written a fair bit on this blog about Preah Vihear, including perhaps especially this post here, which discusses a famous ritual performed at the site by Bun Rany Hun Sen, the wife of Prime [...]

  5. […] some combination, etc. Would they laugh nervously if I brought up Yeay Deb? If political theater, it would be interesting to compare to this ritual I wrote about a few years back – The Krung Palī …. This ritual was pretty explicitly not a curse, but was immediately seized upon by the Thai […]

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