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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Sorcerer’ struggling in forest

Rocham Kin (centre), an ethnic Jarai man, stands with his family in front of his house in Ratanakkiri province
Rocham Kin (centre), an ethnic Jarai man, stands with his family in front of his house in Ratanakkiri province. He has been hiding in the forest since April 5 after being accused of being a sorcerer. ADHOC

‘Sorcerer’ struggling in forest

An ethnic Jarai man accused of using sorcery to murder villagers in Ratanakkiri province is struggling to survive in the forest, where he has been in hiding since fleeing his home more than two weeks ago, he said yesterday.

Forty-eight-year-old Rocham Kin left his home and family on April 5 citing fears for his safety following allegations from relatives, neighbours and local authorities that he was a sorcerer.

Kin said he was accused of using his brateal plant, which is believed to hold magical powers, to kill 12 people in the area since 2014.

“They accuse me of possessing brateal and being a wizard, [but] it is not true,” he said.

Since moving into the forest, Kin says his family has often been too scared to visit him with vital supplies such as food and water.

“They do not dare to come; if [the villagers] spot me, one will kill me,” he said. “Sometimes, I have food and sometimes, I do not.”

Kin claims he has no blanket, mat or mosquito net, and has fallen ill with high fevers.

“It is very difficult to live in the forest. My wife cries because she misses me. Please help me or else I will die in this forest,” he said.

Kin yesterday filed his second complaint of this month to local rights group Adhoc.

In the complaint, Kin says he had often been asked to pray for local people when they fell ill. But if they didn’t survive, he was accused of murder.

Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Chhay Thy said the NGO has been investigating the case and was told by authorities in Bakeo district that Kin used his magical plant to murder eight of his neighbours following an alcohol-fuelled argument in which Kin allegedly warned them that they would die.

Thy said Adhoc had appealed to locals to “respect human rights and the law”.

The incident, he added, is the eighth case the group has recorded of villagers in Ratanakkiri being accused of being sorcerers.

While Bakeo deputy police chief Sang Sok said authorities had also urged people not to attack Kin, he said he too believes he is a sorcerer.

“He has brateal and if he wants someone to die in three days, that person will die in less than three days sometimes,” he said, adding that 12 people, including Kin’s nephew, have died.

Kin was not forced into hiding, Sok added, but likely fled in fear following a spate of ‘suspicious’ deaths in the area.

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