Healer in Kompong Speu Beheaded Over ‘Black Magic’ Accusation

A traditional healer in Kompong Speu province was beaten and beheaded on a roadside in Thpong district on Saturday morning, likely because his attackers believed him to be a sorcerer, local police said Sunday.

The beheading follows the murder of a suspected sorcerer in Mondolkiri province last week, for which four ethnic Bunong men were charged with premeditated murder at the provincial court on Saturday.

The headless body of the healer in Kompong Speu, Pak Sophea, 53, was found at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday in an area of Thpong district that borders Odong and Samraong Tong districts, according to Thpong district police chief Hun Sokhorn.

“The police from three districts are working hard to investigate to crack the case,” Mr. Sokhorn said. “We have already identified some suspects involved in the case, but we cannot give you more details until we arrest them.”

He said that three days before the murder, someone in Pak Sophea’s hometown in Samraong Tong district died suddenly, and that other villagers turned on the healer, accusing him of practicing black magic.

“Local people accused him of doing black magic to bring death and disease to their relatives,” he said.

On the morning of his death, Pak Sophea left his home—a small hut on a cassava plantation in Taing Krouch commune—on a motorbike to fetch water from the provincial capital, but never returned, according to Sam Sak, chief of the provincial police’s serious crimes bureau.

Two hours later, Mr. Sak said, a motorist found his headless and bloodied body on the side of the road and contacted police.

“We found three bloody wooden clubs near the scene,” he said. “So we concluded that the suspects used those wooden clubs to hit his head first, then beheaded him with other weapons.”

Mr. Sak said police suspected that Pak Sophea was attacked by more than two men who knew him well.

The death of the healer came five days after a similar murder of a suspected sorcerer in Mondolkiri province last Monday. In that case, Neak Komprea, a 28-year-old farmer, was taken into the forest at night, bound and stabbed repeatedly after one of the suspects’ family members became ill.

On Saturday, Sovann Chankreasna, an investigating judge at the Mondolkiri Provincial Court, charged four ethnic Bunong men —Ma’yoeul Chhuon, 28; Pha’yos Saroeung, 43; Nheng Hoe, 21; and Pha’chak Angkea, 18—with premeditated murder and sent them to the provincial prison to await trial, according to deputy provincial police chief So Sovann.

Mr. Sovann said that although police initially believed Mr. Angkea to be only a witness to the murder, an investigation had since determined that he was involved.

“He is not a witness but a murderer who joined the murder, because he also tied the victim’s hands and escorted him to be killed,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he was concerned about the two recent killings.

“This is a culture of violence that should not happen in our society,” he said. “The authorities should educate the people who accuse others of being sorcerers, and also the local people who practice sorcery.”

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