Mob Decapitates 55-Year-Old Accused of Sorcery

A mob in Kompong Speu province’s Baset district on Saturday night decapitated a 55-year-old man accused of being a sorcerer, police said Sunday.

“The victim, Khieu Porn, was chopped at least 10 times with axes by a group of about six people,” said Som Chantha, district police chief.

Residents of Baset commune’s Trapaing Chuk village had been celebrating the rice harvest ceremony on Saturday night with a dance party. A group of revelers lured Khieu Porn away from the party and killed him about 50 meters from where villagers were dancing, Mr. Chantha said.

“The head was found severed from the body in the field,” Mr. Chantha said, adding that Khieu Phorn was killed between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. and his body was discovered by villagers at about 6:30 a.m.

Mr. Chantha said Khieu Porn had been a traditional healer but that some people had believed him to be a sorcerer. The victim had lived alone since divorcing his wife, he said.

“We’re investigating to see who was involved in the killing and arrest them,” Mr. Chantha said, adding that police had tried to teach villagers in the past that they must not harm people suspected of practicing sorcery.

Since becoming district police chief in 1999, Mr. Chantha said that he has encountered five cases of suspected sorcerers being murdered. This was the first sorcery killing of the year, he said.

Chan Soveth, senior investigator with rights group Adhoc, said that at least three people accused of sorcery were killed in Cambodia last year.

The murder, harassment or exile of people accused of practicing witchcraft is not uncommon in rural Cambodia, where supposed sorcerers are often scapegoats for a variety of ills—such as sickness or poor crops.

Last year, a mob of 40 people—also in Kompong Speu province—brutally beat to death a man accused of practicing sorcery. Police said there were too many perpetrators to pursue charges.

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