A twenty-year-old woman is in critical condition after suffering serious burns in an exorcism ritual conducted by a traditional Khmer fortune teller on Wednesday in Kampong Speu’s Odong district.
The woman – Ou Sareth – was taken to the fortune teller’s home in Preah Sre commune after her mother believed she was possessed by an evil spirit, said commune police chief Meach Moen.
Using a bundle of burning incense sticks, the fortune teller burned Sareth’s face and body, attempting to exorcise the spirit, said Moen.
It was only after a neighbour noticed the smoke and halted the ritual that the burning finally stopped. By then, both the fortune teller and Sareth’s mother had realised the gravity of their actions and fled to avoid arrest, Moen added.
Sareth, a former factory worker, was rushed to hospital by the neighbour who intervened.
Police are actively searching for both Sareth’s mother and the fortune teller.
“This is the first time such a thing has happened. Now we are looking for her mother to question her,” Moen said.
“I cannot believe that a mother would allow a fortune teller to burn her daughter just because he tells her that her daughter’s body is possessed by an evil spirit.”
According to her sister-in-law, Nong Sophy, 35, Sareth had suffered from lethargy and an inability to speak for two years, which led her mother to believe she was possessed.
Sophy said the fortune teller the duo had visited was widely known to be skilled in traditional Khmer healing.
That said, she lamented the fact that Sareth has been left in such a condition.
“Her face and body are seriously injured, and she has to remain in hospital for treatment,” she said.