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Four men stand at a police station in Keo Seyma district on Tuesday night after they were arrested for murder. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Familiar pattern in M’kiri slaying

Four men have been arrested following the grisly torture and murder of an accused sorcerer on Tuesday night in Mondulkiri province.

The victim, Nhoek Prea, 28, was allegedly killed by three of the arrested men after being lured into a forested area of Keo Seima district’s Memang commune.

The fourth man arrested had originally helped lure him to the location, but fled when the attack began and told the victim’s wife, who alerted police.

“I checked on the victim’s body, and I can conclude that he was tortured in a very cruel way before he died, because there were many injuries on his body,” said Memang commune police chief Kork Khun, who added that the victim was found with his hands bound, wounded in multiple places and burned.

The arrested men were identified as Puk Phet, 40; Nheng Perb, 25; Chhoun Bros, 24; and Phsuk Kea, 18. All four were neighbours of Prea and had accused him of using magic to cause the long-term illness of one of their wives.

The killing is just the latest in a recent string of attacks on accused sorcerers in the northeastern province, with ethnic Jarai villager Rocham Kin forced to flee the village of Chrong in late April to avoid angry villagers who accused him of killing up to a dozen people with magic.

In May, cucumber farmer Sok Soau was set upon in his home by four men, who left him disabled after hacking him with a machete.

The men accused Soau of sorcery, though were embroiled in a land dispute with him at the time.

Speaking yesterday, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Sok Ratha suggested sorcery might be an excuse for settling a personal grievance in this latest case.

“I have to meet with the victim’s family, friends and relatives to find out more about the victim.

While we can’t yet conclude whether he knows sorcery or not, I have unofficially concluded that the suspects killed the victim due to anger or revenge,” he said.

According to Ryun Patterson, author the recently released "Vanishing Act: A Glimpse Into Cambodia’s World of Magic", killings of accused sorcerers are often the result of communities seeking simple solutions to their problems.

“Bad fortune in a community makes people look for answers. A lot of times it’s easier to find a scapegoat, call him a sorcerer, and kill him,” he said.

“In this case, though, I think it’s possible the killers still thought [saying] ‘He’s a sorcerer!’ might just be a way for them to get away with murdering someone they didn’t like.”

The suspects are due to appear in court today.

The name of victim Nhoek Prea has been changed from that in an earlier version of this article after new information was provided by his family.
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