Six young men have been arrested for the slaying of a 45-year-old man who they suspected of being a sorcerer, officials said.
The suspects, all in their late teens and early 20s, were arrested Dec 9 for the death of Som Moeun, a traditional healer in Kompong Chhnang province’s Rolea Ba’ier district, said Chim Bunthoeun, provincial judicial police chief.
The body of Som Moeun was found near his home in Chunleang village with his legs tied together and his body half-submerged in a river on the morning of Dec 8, Chim Bunthoeun said.
Som Moeun was drunk at around 11 pm on Dec 7, when Chan Bunthoeun, Hea Ra, Dorn Phea, Ngor Yang, Ngor Phal and Chan Kea attacked him and beat him with sticks and hoes, Chim Bunthoeun said.
Som Moeun tried to run away and hide with his son in a nearby rice paddy, but was discovered and beaten to death before his head was submerged in water—a traditional method of dispatching those accused of using black magic.
The victim’s 4-year-old son was also injured in the attack and subsequently required nine stitches for lacerations to his head, Chim Bunthoeun said.
“All the villagers knew that he did sorcery,” Chim Bunthoeun added. “That’s why all the villagers hated him,” he said, noting that, while he didn’t personally believe in sorcery, others in the village blamed Som Moeun whenever they got sick.
Som Moeun had also achieved notoriety for beating his wife, he said.
“The villagers encouraged their children to hate him,” Chim Bunthoeun said. “When he died, no one cared. They were happy.”
Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court Prosecutor Mak Panny said the sorcery allegation was baseless and that three more people are also being investigated for alleged involvement in the killing.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Sam Chankea said that two people were killed in June and November respectively for allegedly using black magic in Kompong Chhnang’s Boribor, the neighboring district to the north.
Sam Chankea said that no one has yet been apprehended for those killings and that the lack of punishment for the perpetrators has contributed to the perpetuation of such crimes.
“This is the ignorance of the villagers and the violence has continued,” he said. “There have been few arrests, so villagers are not scared.”