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Accused ‘sorcerer’ fears for his safety

Accused ‘sorcerer’ fears for his safety

AN ethnic Jarai man in Ratanakkiri province is due to file a complaint with local rights group Adhoc today, after villagers accused him of being a sorcerer and allegedly threatened to kill him if another person within the community falls sick.

Relatives of 52-year-old Rocham Char said he has been accused of using black magic by residents of the Somkul village in Rattanakiri province’s Som Thom commune, O’Yadav district, after numerous members of the community fell sick with fever.   

Family member Sok Lorn, aged 46, said: “My brother-in law’s family is scared. They do not sleep well, dare not to go anywhere and are afraid that the villagers will use violence against them because they strongly believe that my brother knows sorcery.”

He added that his family had filed a complaint to village and commune chiefs last year, but had yet to see any intervention from authorities.

Sok Lorn also said that this is not the first time Rocham Char has been suspected of sorcery.

He alleged that in 1982, residents of the Somkul village accused Rocham Char of having practiced black magic.

He claimed they made him swear an oath to prove he wasn’t a sorcerer during a Jarai religious ceremony, during which molten lead was poured onto his hand.

If Rocham Char’s palm was burned it meant that he was a sorcerer, if he remained unscathed he was innocent.

Sok Lorn added that Rocham Char’s hand was not burned so he was absolved by the community.

Yet the villagers accused Rocham Char of practicing black magic again in 2009, he claimed, when people in the village began falling ill with severe fevers.

Yesterday, Sal Toun, chief of Somthom commune chief, confirmed that Somkul villagers “suspect Rocham Char of knowing black magic”.

He added that it was difficult to resolve the situation with villagers because they strongly follow their religious beliefs and do not listen to authority.

He added that he will talk with the villagers so they understand that “Rocham Char does not know sorcery”.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said yesterday that Rocham Char would lodge a complaint today with the organisation to ask for intervention amid the villagers’ allegations.

“Sorcery is a strong belief for ethnic minorities ... only local authorities can change their mind,” he said.    

Chhay Thy added that in 2002 residents of the Sreankrorng village in Ratanakkiri’s Kon Mom district burned a family of suspected sorcerers alive with the assistance of commune and village chiefs, who were subsequently sent to prison.

From 2009 to 2011, Adhoc reportedly received six complaints about sorcery cases, in which two families decided to move their houses for safety reasons.

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