Latest Sorcery Accusation Forces Another Man From Home

For the second time in a month, a man has been forced from his home in Kompong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district after being accused by fellow villagers of using black magic, prompting the district governor to promise to do more to address the issue.

An angry mob of about 150 villagers surrounded the home of Nil Sokha, 45, in Maha Russei commune on Saturday night. Some brandished machetes and wooden stakes, and others threw rocks at the windows and walls, commune and district officials said.

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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)

“Villagers accused him of being a sorcerer because fortune-tellers told the sick people in the village they were affected by black magic,” said commune chief Svay Choeung, who alerted district police after the mob began to gather.

This is the third time in the district over the past year that an alleged sorcerer has either been forced out of his home or was killed due to accusations of black magic.

Prak Kong was forced to flee at the end of last month after a mob of 600 villagers­—many armed with machetes, sticks and rocks—surrounded his home about 3 km from Mr. Sokha’s house in a neighboring commune and demanded he leave the village.

And in May, a 79-year-old Kong Pisei man suspected of sorcery was fatally stabbed in the stomach.

Last month, Mr. Sokha reported receiving an anonymous death threat, prompting Mr. Choeung to hold a town hall meeting to tell the villagers not to believe in superstitions.

Villagers at the meeting called on Mr. Sokha to swear he was not a practitioner of black magic.

“The suspected sorcerer swore to his fellow villagers that he was not a sorcerer, to make them trust him,” Mr. Choeung said on Monday.

That proved to be too little for some residents.

On Saturday night, Mr. Sokha’s son got into an argument with neighbors, who took revenge by gathering a mob and surrounding the suspected sorcerer’s home. Mr. Sokha and his family, anticipating violence, had already fled by the time the mob arrived.

Kong Pisei district police chief Khem Sophanara arrived at Mr. Sokha’s house after being called by the commune chief.

“When I first arrived, I told the angry villagers not to throw stones at the house and not to use any violence,” Mr. Sophanara said, adding that it was lucky Mr. Sokha had already left.

Kong Pisei district governor Chem Phoeunvuth said the villagers in his district held “unreasonable” beliefs about sorcery, but that they were difficult to eradicate.

“This is a very old belief, and it is very complicated to get rid of,” he said. “But I will try to educate them more about the laws to stop them using violence.”

Ryun Patterson, a journalist who has written extensively on Cambodian magical practices, said in an interview earlier this month that police in Kong Pisei had experience defusing similar situations.

“The police do a pretty good job of keeping people from getting killed in Kong Pisei,” he said. “What [the police] have to say is, ‘Believe what you want, but certain things are crimes. And you’re going to go to jail.”

Mr. Sophanara, the police chief, said his officers were still investigating Saturday’s incident.

“We haven’t arrested anyone yet,” he said. “We are preparing the document and searching for the leader of the mob.”

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