Soldiers have blocked the road into politician Khem Veasna’s Siem Reap farmstead, where thousands of worshippers gathered to avoid an apocalyptic flood that Veasna claimed he had now prevented with his chakra.
For a week, Veasna posted online that a black hole forming in his spine had warned him of a flood that would wipe out all of Earth except his farm. Followers flocked to his compound to listen to him preach every afternoon, camping on the land and surrounding areas.
Authorities gave a midnight Tuesday deadline for the gathering to disperse, and say some people have begun to leave. But others remain, and the military has been deployed to prevent further arrivals and help take people home, a provincial official said.
Siem Reap deputy governor Ly Samrith said on Wednesday that the road into Veasna’s farmstead was now blocked, and the province would provide rides home for people on military vehicles.
“In case they don’t have any transportation to go back, we will help them,” Samrith said. But “there are still people who want to go inside. We have blocked them and continue to educate them to leave that place.”
There would not be a raid or crackdown despite the Tuesday deadline having passed, he said. The predicted disaster had not arrived so people should be heading home, he added.
“We don’t know what their main goal is or what they want. Now the time of the huge disaster has passed. They should realize it now and go home to continue making their living again,” he said.
Samrith said there are two types of people remaining: Some who were hard-core supporters of Veasna’s League for Democracy Party, and others who were still scared of potential disaster and didn’t want to step outside. “We hope that won’t be for too long,” the deputy governor said.
Online, Veasna explained that the apocalypse had failed to arrive because he prevented it. He posted a new-age chakra meditation diagram alongside the message.
“This picture is me,” he said, predicting that the floods would eventually come nevertheless. “King Chakra will come to save Cambodians when the flooding disaster starts. When time begins to fall in a landslide in this universe, only the League family island will still be left.”
In the post, Veasna also mocked Prime Minister Hun Sen as blind.
Hun Sen said in a speech on Wednesday that he hoped South Korea, Japan and Thailand would be forgiving of workers who had been cheated by Veasna and left their jobs to attend the Siem Reap gathering.
Veasna was trying to provoke him into a crackdown with his insult and turn the situation political, Hun Sen added.
“What Mr. Khem Veasna wants is to have the government use force to arrest him immediately, arrest him immediately. If we dared to do that, we would fall into Khem Veasna’s trick,” he said. “When doing politics, one needs to look at the whole forest, not just a single tree.”
Hun Sen said that while Veasna was wrong to have instilled fear in people, and that authorities should remain vigilant, Veasna had not called for his followers to rise up against the government as political opponents had.
“If Khem Veasna curses me, please don’t mind him,” Hun Sen said.