Elderly Farmer Killed Over Sorcery Claims

An elderly farmer was stabbed to death at his home in Kompong Speu province on Friday in a case that police believe is linked to accusations that the victim used black magic to cause a series of deaths in the area.

It was the second murder of an accused sorcerer in the province in recent weeks, following the decapitation of a mango farmer, allegedly carried out by his daughter-in-law and her aunt.

Mean Sean, 79, a rice farmer and local undertaker, was stabbed eight times in the stomach while cooking a meal beneath his small stilt house in Kong Pisei district’s Veal commune at around 8:30 p.m., deputy district police chief Keo Saroeun said on Sunday.

“He was preparing dinner while his wife was changing clothes upstairs,” Mr. Saroeun said, adding that his wife, 66-year-old Sous Kheoun, hurried downstairs when she heard her husband collapse but arrived too late to spot his killer, or killers.

The police official said Mean Sean’s neighbors had long suspected him of practicing black magic, and that residents of three villages in the district had filed formal complaints with authorities this year accusing him of sorcery.

Mr. Saroeun said the accusations stemmed from a series of unexplained deaths in the area but added that there was no evidence to suggest they were the result of anything other than natural causes.

“I inspected his house,” Mr. Saroeun said of Mean Sean, “but there were no decorations or suspicious objects that would show that he was a sorcerer and knew black magic.”

“Many people in Cambodia still strongly believe that sorcery exists. It is very hard to stop people from doing cruel things that lead to the killing of innocent people,” he said.

Mr. Saroeun’s boss, district police chief Tou Then, said the accusations against Mean Sean were well known and dated back at least two decades.

“In 2011, he came to us and said that he wasn’t a sorcerer and had no knowledge of how to kill people using black magic,” Mr. Then said.

At a community meeting convened shortly afterward, he added, Mean Sean publicly stated that he was not a sorcerer, while police warned of legal repercussions in the event that anyone took extrajudicial action against him.

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