A woman and her two daughters accused of practising sorcery in Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district on Sunday swore at a pagoda that they were innocent. Their swearing was witnessed by about 170 villagers.
Kampong Trach district police chief Seng Sokun Chatt said residents of Kandal Tuol village in Kampong Trach Khang Lech, accused Koh Sok, 38, and her daughters of being sorcerers and responsible for deaths and illnesses of the people in their area.
He said the swearing ceremony took place at the Dang Tong pagoda, in neighbouring Dang Tong district on Sunday afternoon, with more than 30 policemen, military police and local officials present to provide security.
“Both sides agreed yesterday to stop accusing each other after they drank swearing (holy) water. The woman and her daughter asked the villagers to stop accusing them of being sorcerers,” he said.
The second deputy chief for Kampong Trach Khang Lech Prum Kim Cheu said about 170 people were present at the pagoda, but only some 60 villagers drank the holy water while the others claimed they were merely observers.
“When they agreed to drink the holy water, most villagers dare not drink and only about 60 people did that. The rest just stood outside. The women and her daughters swore that if they really practised sorcery, death would befall the whole family,” Kim Cheu said.
In the past week, the family sought the help of the commune authority for protection after local villagers hurled allegations against the trio.
Cheu said the villagers believed the family picked up the practice from the woman’s 80-year-old mother who had also been accused by villagers of similar activities.
Chatt said the villagers still believed in superstition.
“In the past, they accused her mother of being a sorcerer, but now that she is old, the villagers claim she transferred the powers to her children."
“They said the old woman would perform rituals where she would dance and chant names [of people in the village] who would later die or become sick,” he said.
Cheu said some villagers did not seek medical treatment when their relatives fell sick but instead sought the help of traditional healers.