Society

Mourners Flee When Cambodian Man Shows Up To His Own Funeral

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Mourners at a funeral in Cambodia fled in terror when the deceased arrived alive and well at his own cremation ceremony.

Kong Channeang, 32, disappeared for five days from his home in the Romdoul district of Svay Rieng Province. When a body was found in a nearby river, it was mistakenly identified as Channeang.

Channeang, who suffers from mental illness, is tied up by his family at night – a controversial but common practice in Cambodia. His family said he managed to free himself from the chains when he went missing on May 27.

Five days later, a crowd gathered for his cremation. That is when Channeang finally returned home. At first, mourners thought he was a ghost.

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“All of us were scared and ran away immediately,” Orn Song, the chief of Svay Chek commune, told the Phnom Penh Post. “We thought that we were being haunted, since it was a little bit dark at 6:30pm when he showed up at the funeral.”

As funeral goers fled, Channeang called out to his father.

"When I heard him call me, I just went to him and grabbed his hand," said his 63-year-old father Kong Vanny. "I realized that he was not a ghost and I told the villagers and authorities to return to the funeral and not be afraid of him because he was actually alive.”

The body was given back to authorities before it was cremated.

Kong’s father defended the use of chains to restrain his son. He said it protects both him and the villagers.

“His condition is like a spirit comes and controls his body,” he said. “Sometimes he is normal, and sometimes he is not normal and he has problems with other people. Sometimes, I shackle his legs in order to stop him from attacking anyone in the village.”

Channeang, however, has never seen a psychologist and his father maintains that his condition only affects him during a full moon.

“Mental health is pretty new in the Cambodian context. Psychiatry in particular is really new. In general, Cambodian people have their own explanatory model to explain behaviors or [mental states] or attitudes of people,” Dr Chhim Sotheara, executive director of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, told the Phnom Penh Post.

Sources: New York Daily News, Phnom Penh Post