Man Accused of Being Sorcerer in Ratanakkiri Fears for His Life

Tensions over a 56-year-old man ac­cused of sorcery in Ratanakkiri pro­vince continued yesterday after a meeting with 200 of his accusers produced no agreement, the O’Ya­daw district governor said.

District authorities held the meeting after 100 families on Friday submitted a petition accusing ethnic Ja­rai man Rocham Cha of sickening other villagers and calling for intervention by authorities, said district governor Dak Sar. During the meeting, some of his accusers said that the man would face a mob a­t­tack if he re­mained in the area, Mr Sar said.

“After a full morning of debate, there was no fruitful outcome,” Mr Sar said. “I suggested that villagers not do anything foolish like…harming the alleged sorcerer’s life.”

In late April, following a plea for help from Mr Cha and rights group Adhoc, district authorities requested that four men sign a contract agreeing to stop making the allegations, he said. The men signed the agreement, but continued to rally villagers against the man anyway, he said.

Mr Cha yesterday insisted that he is innocent but that his attempts to reason with his accusers have been unsuccessful.

“If I were a sorcerer or knew a sorcerer’s magic, these accusers would be under my spell and would not be alive to place blame on me,” he said. “My life is in danger and I worry these villagers can harm my children and grandchildren.”

Sal Bien, chief of Som Kol village in Som Thom commune, said that Mr Cha encountered similar accusations in the 1980s and freed himself of suspicion by passing a test that involved molten lead.

In the test, the accused must touch hot lead, and if he is un­scathed, he is not a sorcerer, Mr Bien said, adding that Mr Cha did not sustain burns.

Mr Bien said he still held suspicions even after the test, but considers Mr Cha harmless.

“But other villagers do hate him, and I am afraid they could do something to harm the life of the alleged sorcerer,” he said.


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