Man accused of sorcery fears for his life

Ratanakkiri. A man of 56 years old, Rocham Cha of the Jarai ethnic, in the North Easter province of Ratanakkiri, fights to demonstrate to his community that he is not a sorcerer. The event has a more serious context. In the last years, human rights organizations such as Adhoc and Licadho, denounce the dead of persons who have been accused of practicing magic, specially in this very natural province, but in other Cambodian provinces as well.

If a person or a family has a problem that is inexplicable before their eyes or they are suffering from an illness that doctors or healers cannot heal, persons of very low education and tend to believe in superstitions, believe that it comes from the influence of an anonymous enemy. How they discover the allegedly sorcerer who is the reason of their evil is a mystery. It is more likely through another sorcerer! But as soon as a name is revealed, that person is under death penalty.

The fact has caused a series of homicides, most of them with impunity, because they are dangerously tolerated by the same communities: ‘They killed him because he was a sorcerer‘ and that seems okay. Some of the crimes have been committed by mobs, then authorities find difficult to charge individuals.

The death of the allegedly sorcerer does not end the problem. His family becomes also a victim of a communitarian hate and it is pressed to leave the community. In many cases, relatives of the accused sorcerer are also at risk of death, specially spouses and children.

The drama of Rocham Cha, accused to be a sorcerer in his village, is a good example. He fears for his life and his family. For this reason, he asked the authorities and human rights organizations to support him in convincing the community that he is not a sorcerer, but the case has been difficult. Last Monday there was a meeting with 200 of his accusers, but there was not an agreement. Last week a number of 100 families filled a complain to the authorities stating that he practices magic. Some of his accusers have publicly threatened to lynch.

In April, Adhoc did a work with that community and the accusers signed a compromise where they stopped to accuse Cha of it. However, those who signed continued to put the community against Cha.

The case of this man, a father and grandfather of a large family, seems to be resolved only by exile, an option that has been taken by other persons under similar accusations in Cambodia. Another man of 51 years old, Sieng Soeun, was lynched Saturday night of January 11, 20111 in the Oral District, Kompung Speu province. According to the police report, the villagers believed that Soeun practiced magic. However, a person can be murdered for other reasons and the magic accusation, given its impunity, can be used as an alibis.

About 8 persons have been murdered in Cambodia since 2008 for magic accusations, five of them in Ratanakkiri province, according to Licadho. As it happens in communities of low education, big campaigns are required to stop this social evil, before it would be too late.

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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39xwdGtVXI) and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (http://www.colombia.co/en/culture/colombians-that-are-making-this-a-better-world.html).

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