Ratanakkiri Villagers Blame Another Death on Forest Spirits

Another death in Ratanakkiri province has spurred members of an ethnic minority to hold a traditional ceremony in an effort to ap­pease spirits they believe are angry because of forest destruction in the northeast, villagers said yesterday.

Sixty-year-old ethnic Kavet farmer Voy Seng, a resident of Kang Nak village in Voeun Sai district’s Voeun Sai commune, died suddenly on Wed­nesday while waiting in his home for lunch to be prepared, villager Voy Sin said.

“His children tried to help but couldn’t because his entire body was convulsing. Then he vomited blood and bruised spots appeared on his chest,” said Mr Sin, adding that the man had been in good health.

Voy Seng became the seventh member of an ethnic minority to die this month in three adjacent communes in the province under what villagers say are mysterious circumstances. The superstitious indigenous minorities believe angry spirits killed the men in revenge for rapacious mining and logging of the forests by outsiders.

Most recently, a 22-year-old ethnic Kavet man died in the nearby Ro Meuy village. Phan Ten, deputy chief of Ro Meuy village, which is in Voeun Sai district’s Kuk Lak commune, said the two villages will be­gin a three-day traditional ceremony today.

“In the next three days, the villa­gers and elderly people have agreed to block access in the two villages by not allowing anyone to leave or come into the village, and to pray for the spirits to stop being angry,” she said.

Villagers will sacrifice pigs instead of buffalo in the ceremony because they are poor, she added. They will also be patrolling their villages for their own safety.

“Anybody having a big house, at least five to seven families will move in to stay there and sleep together,” she said. “We will assign two in the house to patrol to ensure no strange things happen.”

District police chief Poeu Nou­thang said he was unaware of the latest mysterious death.

“Indigenous villagers, especially in isolated villages, generally block access and don’t allow police or authorities to go into their village whenever there are such mysterious deaths,” he said.

 

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