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Collage: VICE / Images: Greg Mo 
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In Cambodia, People Are Scaring Away COVID With Scarecrows

The “Ting Mong” scarecrows are not just for birds, but spirits and ghosts too.
September 24, 2020, 6:52am

Travelling across Cambodia, scarecrows are everywhere. They’re called “Ting Mong” and are placed in front of houses to protect families against diseases and bad karma. They are most common in rural areas, where there is more space and more attachment to older traditions rooted in animist beliefs. In friendly competition, neighbors try to have the most stylish, flashiest, and scariest design. But since the pandemic started, there’s even more of them.

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Ting Mong holding a fake machine gun standing next to a food stand, photographed in Takeo province. Photo: Greg Mo

Ting Mong are more human-like than scarecrows in other countries and are meant to trick evil spirits that the place is being guarded. Through the years, they’ve also become a reflection of Cambodian culture, creativity, and humor.

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

This Ting Mong’s face made with a paint bucket was photographed in Kandal province. Photo: Greg Mo

While some are fashioned with a Spider-Man mask, sunglasses, counterfeit Louis Vuitton outfits, or Nike sneakers, others look menacing with a hoodie, fake machine guns, knives, and wooden sticks. Now, they wear medical face masks too.

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Spider-Man Ting Mong captured in Takeo province. Photo: Greg Mo

Traditionally, the life-sized body of the Ting Mong was handmade using paper wrapped around a woven bamboo basket and personalized with a huge painted face. The bigger the scarecrow, the more frightening. Today, most are made of straw, with wooden or metal arms linked with thread, and a cardboard face with a drawing of eyes, nose, and mouth.

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Ting Mong with a hat photographed in Takeo province. Photo: Greg Mo

Photographer Greg Mo has captured more than 300 Ting Mong effigies around Siem Reap province and suburban parts of the capital Phnom Penh since March, as infections began to rise in the country, though confirmed cases are now relatively low compared to Southeast Asian neighbors.

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Pink-faced Ting Mong made up of straw, captured in Takeo province. Photo: Greg Mo

Excited to show off their Ting Mong creations, owners readjusted the scarecrows before photos were taken and said that they were all for protection against the pandemic, shouting “Corona.”

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Ting Mong wearing a medical mask and a krama, captured near Oudong mountain in Kandal province. Photo: Greg Mo

cambodia-covid-coronavirus-scarecrow-photos-culture-tradition

Ting Mong in front of a wooden house warmly dressed with a coat, medical mask, and helmet, captured near Oudong mountain in Kandal province. Photo: Greg Mo

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