He is nine years old and keeps a 5 meter long python snake as his pet. Oun Sambath from Cambodia and his snake Cham Roeun have been together since they both were babies.
The family lives in Kandal province in Cambodia, just an hour south of the capital city of Phnom Penh. The father tells me that three months after Sambath was born they saw something moving under his matress. It was a small python snake, about a meter in length.
Sambath’s father carefully put the snake baby back into the forest. But during the night it found its way back to their house.
That made Koun Samang think about whether the snake was in fact meant to be with them. He started praying to the gods and came to the conclusion that the snake would bring them happiness.
Since then the snake and the boy always played and slept together. Only when Sambath was 8 years old the parents decided it was time that the snake slept somewhere else than with the boy. Now the 5 meter long snake has its own room in the house.
In the snake room is also an altar. The family strongly believe that the presence of the snake has made life easier for them.
- Before we were always sick. After we got the snake, nobody has been sick in the family, claims Koun Samang.
He tells me many people show up every weekend to pray to the spirit of the snake. Allegedly many of them have recovered from health problems after visiting the snake.
A fortune teller even told Sambath’s mother that the boy and the snake had been husband and wife in a previous life. This is a story the boy himself strongly believes.
- I will never get married as long as I have the snake, he says.
According to the family the snake has never shown any sign of being dangerous. The boy himself crawls and sit on the snake without taking any precautions.
But it does get hungry, though. The snake is fed about 10 chicken every week, which is rather costly for a poor farmer family. Fortunately weekend visitors frequently give donations to help feed the snake.
- I can even talk to the snake. But only at night, I am to shy to do it during daytime, says Sambath.
- And what do you tell the snake?
- That I cannot tell you. It is my private secret.