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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witchcraft fears fuel acts of cannibalism

Witchcraft fears fuel acts of cannibalism


On Jan 1 Prom Chheur joined a growing number of men incarcer-ated in Kampong Thom

prison for murder-ing their victims and eating their livers.

Prom Chheur

Chheur was arrested more than three years ago, since the night of Oct 19, 1997 when

he and two accomplices shot dead 57-year-old Prom Phen and his two wives - and then

cut out and ate Phen's liver and gall bladder.

Now serving a 15-year prison sentence, Chheur defends his actions on the basis that

Phen was a practitioner of witchcraft who was responsible for the deaths of Chheur's

sister-in-law and the son of Sath Sok, one of Chheur's accomplices.

In an interview with the Post on February 8 at Kampong Thom prison, Chheur described

the murder and subsequent act of cannibalism as an act of revenge.

"A kru Khmer [traditional healer] said [Phen] made black magic causing my father

to get sick as well as the death of my sister-in-law and Sok's son," he said.

"All villagers believed he was a witch. I wanted vengeance against him."

Chheur declined to say why he and Sath had eaten Phen's liver and gall bladder.

Kampong Thom Prosecutor Huot Hy blamed superstition and the widespread belief in

black magic in the countryside for Phen's murder and numerous other acts of murder/cannibalism

in Kampong Thom in recent years.

"It is very dangerous when someone is called by name by a kru Khmer, accusing

him of performing black magic," Hy said.

According to Kampong Thom's Sandan District Justice Police Chief Mao Boran, as many

as 10 villagers in the area had been murdered and mutilated in recent years as a

result of black magic accusations.

"Villagers are very superstitious ... they actually believe in witchcraft,"

he said.

Boran traced the practice of eating human livers to the civil war period prior to

the Khmer Rouge victory of April 1975, when the eating of human livers was credited

with boosting bravery and strength.

But not all of Kampong Thom prison's convicted cannibals attribute their acts to

defense against black magic.

Hieng Houn, 32, who is also serving time in Kampong Thom prison on charges of killing

a man and eating his liver, said he was motivated by lingering anger resulting from

a quarrel over a card game.

"I planned to kill him for a long time because he owed me money from playing

cards," he said of what led to the night of Sept 23, 2000 when he shot a friend

with seven rounds from an AK-47.

And the liver eating?

"I ate his liver because I was very angry with him," Houn said.



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