As reports continue to pile up of accused sorcerers being violently forced from their homes – most recently in Kampong Speu province – The Post has learned that an alleged “sorcerer” and his family have been holed up at a district police station for the last two years.
Rocham Kin, his wife and his six children, were forced from their home in Kak commune’s Chrung village in April 2015 after villagers, including Kin’s own brother, tried to kill him.
The ethnic Jarai villagers alleged Kin used black magic and brateal, a succulent plant believed to hold magical properties, to kill up to a dozen people. Kin, 50, said yesterday that he and his family have remained at the Bakeo district police station ever since he was first taken into protective custody there. “I am afraid of them abusing me again. Living here is safer,” Kin said.
“I do not know about sorcery and I do not have any magic; I am a normal person and they just accused me. If anyone falls ill, they accuse me,” he said.
The family of eight is supported by district and provincial authorities, who cover the cost of water, electricity and 10 kilograms of rice a week.
Kin said he is rarely employed for plantation work and that without his own land he couldn’t farm and provide for his children. “I do not have enough clothes and my wife gets fevers as well. We are facing difficulties.”
Heng Bunny, Bakeo district governor, said authorities had tried to settle the family in Soeung commune, but that scheme fell flat because of Kin’s alleged dark magic. “The ethnic people still believe in sorcery. They are afraid of him, so they do not want him to live in their community,” Bunny said.
The belief of sorcery remains rooted deeply in Cambodian society, with accused practitioners often attacked, killed or hounded from their homes. In the past three weeks, two families have been uprooted due to sorcery allegations in Kong Pisey district, Kampong Speu.
The most recent of these was Nil Sokha and his wife Oem Kim on Saturday night.
According to district police chief Khem Sophanra, more than 100 people hurled stones at the pair’s home, shattering windows. “His family had left before I arrived. If they did not manage to escape, there would have been a problem,” he said.
Traditional healer Prak Kong, 65, escaped from the same district’s Prey Vihear commune in late March after sorcery allegations were made against him.
Chak Sopheap, of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said religious beliefs were not an excuse to deprive someone of their rights.
“It is the clear and unambiguous duty of the state to ensure that no one is left homeless due to persecution or discrimination. Of course, when dealing with deeply-held beliefs, this is no simple task,” she said.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley