The superstitions that spread of coronavirus around the globe has given rise to are still not completely eradicated as people keep coming up with various ideas of keeping COVID at bay. A similarly strange case from Cambodia is about farmers who have deployed scarecrows – all set with a stick and plastic pot for the head – to ward off the virus.
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.
The other is dressed in camo-green and has a stick propped like a rifle across its hay-stuffed chest.
“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.
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.
“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.