A fourth-year university student studying to be a teacher dropped out of her course when she heard politician Khem Veasna’s predictions of the end of the world, her school says, illustrating the drastic measures some people have taken.
Veasna heads the League for Democracy Party and has morphed into a self-styled religious leader. Last week, he predicted that a devastating flood would engulf the world and that his farm in Siem Reap province was the only safe location.
The announcement triggered a movement of people to his farm in Banteay Srei district, with the political party claiming thousands of supporters at the compound.
Mut Sopha is one of the faithful who made the journey to Siem Reap and joined her fellow Veasna supporters in the supposed safety of the homestead. Sopha is a fourth-year student at the Phnom Penh Teacher Education College and skipped her final year examinations on August 27, said Set Seng, the director of the college.
The director was not too pleased at losing one of his students.
“Khem Veasna’s religious propaganda can cause chaos in society and ruin the youth’s future,” he said on Friday.
VOD spoke to Sopha but she did not want to talk on the record about her whereabouts. Her Facebook account is peppered with reposts of Veasna’s social media messages.
Stories similar to Sopha’s have emerged from families who have either moved to the farm or have a relative who listened to Veasna’s announcement and moved to live with the politician.
Phon Sopha, one of Mut Sopha’s classmates, said she was an ardent supporter of the LDP, often lashing out at any criticism of the party and its leader. This had created a rift between Sopha and her classmates, he added.
Phon Sopha was confused when he didn’t see her classmate at the final examination last week.
“During the final exam of the senior year, Sopha did not show up and did not tell anyone where she went,” Sopha said.
As soon as he found out Sopha was not at the examination, Seng called the authorities who then contacted her family to check if they knew where she was.
Sopha is from Kampot’s Sre Cheng commune. Kruy Sophea, the commune chief, said the family called her and confirmed she was at Veasna’s farm in Siem Reap.
“Her family tried to convince her not to go to Khem Veasna’s farm, but she refused as she thinks there will be flooding as Veasna said,” said Sophea.
The commune chief added that Sopha was the only one from the family to make the trek north, even though her uncles are also LDP supporters. Sophea added that around 10 LDP supporters from the Khpob Run village in the commune had gone to Siem Reap.
The family did not want to speak to the media about their daughter’s decision to go to Siem Reap.
As Veasna’s prediction of a flood has come and passed — with him claiming earlier this week that he stopped it by turning into a “chakra king” — Siem Reap officials have moved to clear the compound, giving devotees five days from Thursday to leave the premises.
Sok Thol, a spokesperson for the Siem Reap provincial administration, said around 5,000 people had left Veasna’s farm and were heading back to their homes
As of Friday, Sopha had not emerged from Veasna’s doomsday safe haven.
Thol added that six LDP supporters had been arrested on Thursday for obstructing the work of authorities. A car was also seized.
According to videos posted on social media, the six people were arguing with the police for not allowing them onto the farm.
Additional reporting by Phin Rathana