Kompong Speu Officials Hold Workshop in ‘Sorcerer’ Village

Officials from Kompong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district, which has seen several mob attacks and a murder related to accusations of sorcery in the past year, held an educational workshop on Tuesday in a village where a man was recently forced from his home after being accused of using black magic.

District officials and police officers met with villagers in Maha Russei commune’s Krang Speuv village about human rights, health and the law, said district governor Chem Phoeunvuth.

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A broken spirit house lies in front of Prak Kong’s home in Kompong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district earlier this month. (Brendan O’Byrne/The Cambodia Daily)

Health was a particularly important topic, the governor said, because villagers often blamed deaths or illnesses on sorcery, sometimes after being told by traditional healers or fortune- tellers that black magic was the cause of their problems.

“We educated people…that whenever they get sick, they should go visit a doctor and take medicine as the doctor advises,” he said.

The task force formed in response to a slew of incidents in the district. The most recent occurred on Saturday night when an angry mob of about 150 villagers surrounded the home of Nil Sokha, 45, brandishing machetes and wooden stakes, alleging that he was a sorcerer. Mr. Sokha had already left.

Mr. Phoeunvuth said authorities had educated several villages in the district already, including Trapaing Svay, where 70-year-old Prak Kong was trapped in his house at the end of last month by a mob of 600 villagers accusing him of sorcery. He had to be escorted out of the village with his wife by district police officials.

In May, a 79-year-old man in the district was fatally stabbed after similar accusations.

Mr. Phoeunvuth, the district governor, said that he planned to eventually hold workshops in all 13 communes in Kong Pisei district.

Khem Sophanara, the district’s police chief—who also attended Tuesday’s workshop— said on Tuesday that officers had not yet arrested anyone in Krang Speuv, but that police were still investigating. Mr. Sophanara said he wanted to speak to the accused sorcerer, Nil Sokha, who had not yet returned to the village.

“I want to talk to the man whom villagers accused of being a sorcerer, and then we can arrest the leaders of the mob,” he

said.

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