According to Khmer custom, the deceased believe they are merely asleep until the seventh day after their hearts stop. When they realize the truth–that they are dead forever, that they will never go home again–they grow terrified and angry.
The solution is the “seven-day ceremony,” an hours-long funerary ritual to soothe the souls of the dead and placate them with offerings, speeding them on their way to the next life. On the seventh day after the stampede, the country was awash in these ceremonies, with mourners offering their dead everything from pigs’ heads to fake bars of gold.
The government has a long history of closing ranks during a scandal, and an even longer history of favoring business interests over ordinary citizens. When developer OCIC pursued a 99-year lease to Diamond Island several years ago, the military summarily evicted all of the island’s residents.In a marathon two-and-a-half-hour speech on Monday, the prime minister called upon the ghosts of Diamond Island to haunt his political opposition and anyone who criticized his handling of the disaster. “They will get back their bad deeds from the souls of the victims who died, who will do something to them,” he said. “I do not know what they will do, but I pray that [the spirits] will give them backaches.”