Sorcery and black magic are alive and well in Cambodia, and they’re worth killing over

Outbreaks of disease, unsolved deaths or bad luck are often blamed by villagers on witchcraft, and sometimes there are violent consequences.

Phnom Penh seems to have all the trappings of a modern cosmopolitan city: towering skyscrapers, world-class restaurants and painfully air-conditioned shopping malls. But venture a few hours outside the capital and things become different very quickly.

There is, particularly in rural provinces, a pervasive belief in the supernatural in Cambodia. Near the end of November, a couple was attacked in Pursat Province – about 200km northwest of Phnom Penh – by a small mob accusing them of killing someone’s daughter with sorcery. The accused husband, 83, was beaten to death while his wife, 72, was shot in the leg with a home-made rifle.

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