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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Sorcerer’ seeks sanctuary

A disabled man sits in a hammock at a police station in Ratanakkri’s O’Yadav district earlier this month after he was chased from his home by neighbours for allegedly being a sorcerer.
A disabled man sits in a hammock at a police station in Ratanakkri’s O’Yadav district earlier this month after he was chased from his home by neighbours for allegedly being a sorcerer. IVAN FRANCESCHINI

‘Sorcerer’ seeks sanctuary

A disabled man from Ratanakkiri province appealed to local authorities yesterday to help him return home after he was forced to flee his village on Sunday and seek shelter at a local police station amid accusations of sorcery.

Sal Toun, chief of O’Yadav district’s Som Thom commune, said 44-year-old Sol Thail was chased from his Som Trok village home because of allegations he had used black magic to murder multiple neighbours.

“More than 400 villagers chased him away from the village, because he is a sorcerer who made some villagers die,” he said.

According to Toun, Thail, of the Jarai ethnic minority group, was accused of being a sorcerer after performing a magic trick for his neighbours in which he made a rock appear to disappear.

The father of six, who lost both of his hands in a landmine explosion, has been held in protective custody at the commune police station since Sunday.

Som Thom commune police chief Pachom Ngat said officials will escort Thail back to his home on Wednesday.

“The officials will bring him to meet the other villagers and tell them to allow him to stay in the village as normal, because we found that he is not a sorcerer,” Ngat said.

“The villagers died because of illnesses, not because of him.”

Thail’s brother, 45-year-old Sol Mel, said he had never seen any evidence of his sibling practicing sorcery,

“I know everything about him and he is not a sorcerer as the villagers accuse him of being . . . How could he be a sorcerer? He is a gentle man.”

Accusations of sorcery are not uncommon in remote areas of Ratanakkiri.

Earlier this year, 48-year-old Rocham Kin was forced to seek shelter in Bakeo district police station after his neighbours accused him of using a magical plant to kill up to a dozen villagers.

Kin, who has now been staying at the station for almost four months, said yesterday he was too frightened to ever return home.

“The villagers still haven’t agreed for me to come back.

I still fear for my safety,” he explained. “They [the locals] are cruel and hate me so much.”

In Mondulkiri province, a 28-year-old man was brutally murdered last month with chainsaws, knives and stones by a group of villagers who believed that he used magic to devour children’s souls and inflict illness on a neighbour.

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Asok's picture

Contrary to many westerners and educated city dwellers believe magic, spells, and spirits are part of reality in many rural people daily life. In reality, western concepts of sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy has less effect and influence on remote Cambodian people daily life than their believe of magics and spirits. Their beliefs are valid, effective, and practical in their environment. As an example, when I was a boy living in rural Cambodia, I have absolute believe in magic, spirit, spells, and ghost like many other people. It was a fact and true part of your daily life more than modern scientific postulates, theories, and laws that governed physical world.

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