A 29-year-old ethnic Phnong man was shot in the head on Friday and remains in critical condition after being accused of sorcery in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district.
District Police Chief Klot Sok Khear said that Mroeum Di was shot once in the head at around 9pm on Friday in Sok San commune, and that police were still searching for the suspect.
Sok Khear said there had been no deaths or illnesses in the village that he knew about that may have caused residents to believe Di was a sorcerer. However, “after the incident, we identified that there is no other story besides this sorcery”, he said.
Di is currently in critical condition at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, where he is being looked after by his wife, Sok Khear said. His wife, 25-year-old Khet Pos, said she was upstairs at their home when she heard the shot go off.
“My husband has never been in any conflict with anyone or hurt anyone,” Pos said, adding that a neighbour had often accused her husband of being a sorcerer when he was drunk.
“I don’t know who the perpetrator is, but I hope the police can arrest him. I have no idea why he shot my husband. My husband is just a normal person,” she said.
A doctor at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Di’s brain and eyes had been severely damaged. “Our main task is to save his life first,” the doctor said. “We don’t know whether he could be blind after recovery . . . We will try our best to save his life.”
Sok Khear said the last time police dealt with a sorcery case in Koh Nhek district was in 2008, when two brothers accused of black magic were shot dead.
Fear of sorcery remains a deeply held belief in some parts of Cambodia. People accused of sorcery are often attacked, driven out of their homes or killed.
In April, a traditional healer and his family fled their home in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisey district after villagers accused him of sorcery and threatened to kill him.
In Ratanakkiri’s Bakeo district, one man who was accused of being a sorcerer was holed up in a police station for two years. And last July, a man in Pursat who was accused of sorcery was shot dead by a masked assailant while watching television.