William and Mary Law School

Tiger bites and snake strikes

Lokta Tai Grahome

The altar to Lokta Tai Grahome in the courtyard of Ratanakiri's provincial courthouse.

Lokta Dambang Kra Nhoung

The altar to Lokta Dambang Kra Nhoung in the courtyard of Stung Treng's provincial courthouse.

 

I was really intrigued by the sculptures of shirtless men surrounded by open beer bottles outside the courthouses in the Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces.  Apparently, they are sculptures of spirits, and witnesses must swear to them before testifying in court.  I asked my coworker about it, and he showed me where the oath is in the back of my Khmer/English copy of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Kingdom of Cambodia. 

This is how it works:

The witness holds incense in front of the ''sacred object'' (sculpture) while the clerk reads an introduction, the most interesting part of which is

''Should anyone answer untruthfully about what they know, have seen, have heard, and remember, may all the guardian angels, forest guardians, Yeay Tep and powerful sacred spirits utterly and without mercy destroy them, and bestow upon them a miserable and violent death by means of bullets, electricity, lightning, tiger bites, and snake strikes, and in their future reincarnation separate them from their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren, impoverish them, and subject them to miseries for 500 reincarnations. . . .''

When the clerk finishes, the witness then says,

''If I answer falsely on any issue, may all the guardian angels, forest guardians and powerful sacred spirits destroy me, may my material possessions be destroyed, and may I die a miserable and violent death. . . .''

It's certainly a little more vivid than, ''Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? So help you God.''