A Cambodian cult leader said the world would end. 20,000 people took his word

The cult group’s believers peel vegetables at the farmhouse.
PHOTO: Facebook

Scores of parents in Cambodia have urged the government to help bring back their children camping at a farmhouse owned by a politician-turned-doomsday prophet amid concerns they had been indoctrinated.

Khem Veasna, head of the League for Democracy Party (LDP), claimed a devastating flood could wipe out humanity on Aug 30, and called on his supporters to take refuge at his mountainside plantation in Siem Reap province.

More than 20,000 followers, including teenagers and Cambodians working in Thailand and Japan, returned to Cambodia and flocked to the estate to escape the impending disaster.

Khem Veasna with his supporters at his farmhouse in Siem Reap province, Cambodia.
PHOTO: Facebook

Veasna’s prediction, however, failed spectacularly. It prompted most of his adherents, who consider him to be Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, to leave the facility.

But worried parents said their children still had not returned home, despite officials ordering them to vacate the property over the weekend.

Authorities also accused Veasna of coaxing the youngsters to renounce their families and confining them to his countryside retreat.

Eam Voeun, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade his son to come home, said the latter had developed suicidal thoughts.

“My son was threatening to kill himself for asking him to leave the farm. Let me tell you, if my kid kills himself there, I will sue Khem Veasna because I am disappointed with my son,” he told the Khmer Times . “He has never done such foolish things in his life.”

Siem Reap police chief Teng Channath said he had received complaints about children being not allowed to exit the compound.

The cult group’s leader rejected the accusations, saying “it is their desire to stay at the farmhouse and we are powerless to change them”.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Veasna was using his followers to gain political mileage. He added many people had sold their valuables to travel to the farmstead and that Veasna’s sway over his followers had led to friction between family members.

“He’s already making a career move from faith to politics. I ask those loyal to me to please not fall into Veasna’s trap,” Hun Sen told reporters last week.

Veasna, whose LDP is yet to win a parliamentary seat, has shrugged off the controversy and stepped up his apocalyptic propaganda on Facebook by posting news and photos of floods happening in other parts of the world.

The interior ministry had asked authorities in Siem Reap to raise awareness about cults among Veasna’s supporters to prevent them from getting radicalised.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.