A 64-year-old ethnic Jarai man in Ratanakkiri province suspected of being a sorcerer appealed to local authorities for help yesterday because he feared being expelled from his community, authorities said yesterday.
The meeting follows a string of incidents in which suspected sorcerers were forced out of their villages in Ratanakkiri, rights workers say.
Poy Cheng, deputy chief of O’Yadaw district’s Paknhai commune, said he and commune chief Rocham Poeut questioned suspected sorcerer Chhor Phoem yesterday morning.
“The community complained to commune authorities, seeking to expel him from the village after a number of local people fell sick,” he said.
Under questioning, Mr Phoem had insisted on his innocence and said he knew nothing about magic, Mr Cheng said.
“There are a lot of cases involving alleged sorcerers in my commune,” he said. “Some cases we settle peacefully, and in some, the suspected sorcerers were so frightened and just left the village.”
In 2010, three men in Kon Mom and O’Yadaw districts were forced to leave their indigenous communities after being marked as sorcerers and accused of using magic to make people sick, according to Chhay Thy, provincial investigator for rights group Adhoc.
In May, suspected sorcerer Vet Tei, an ethnic Lao living in Kon Mom district, was expelled from his community after being accused of killing a number of villagers, including his father, by magical means.
But with intervention from local police and rights groups, Mr Tei was recently able to move back to his home village, according to Mr Thy.
O’Yadaw district governor Dak Sar, himself an ethnic Jarai, said many indigenous villagers believe that sorcery is at work whenever disease spreads or people die mysteriously.
“There are a lot of suspected sorcerer families that have been forced to leave their villages to stay with relatives,” he said.
He said suspected sorcerers are often put through a trial by ordeal, forced to dip a finger into boiling lead: “When the suspect gets burned after putting a finger in the lead, he or she must be a sorcerer.”