Witchhunts in Cambodia

Not a country I know about, but apparently it’s one with enough superstition and belief in the supernatural to create mobs intent on accusing ordinary people of black magic and sorcery. Why they thought Pov Sovann was trouble? He was into traditional herbal healing and well respected locally for it. A group reportedly 200 strong confronted him at his home and several followed him up to his bedroom and ultimately bludgeoned him to death. There had been rumours and fears that he’d caused the death of some locals via curses.

Sovann might be the fourth such case in the country this year, up a bit from previous years. Not many deaths all told, but enough for people to start taking notice. Of the hundreds that took part in the latest attack, few if any have been arrested and human rights groups, journalists, anthropologists and economists are weighing in on this disturbing trend.

The article goes on to state that Cambodia has 400 years of history with this “death to sorcerers” business, but back then it was government-sanctioned execution rather than neighbourhood gangs and the accused were tied up and thrown in the river. If they still survived after 15 minutes, then they were definitely using black magic to do it and were killed in some other way. Only by drowning would it prove they were innocent. Sound familiar?

“Witchcraft is born in the time of misery,” said Ang Choulean, a historical anthropologist with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, citing an 1862 book that was published in English under the title “Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition.”

“If one understands that, one can understand anything,” Choulean said, adding that although massacres had happened throughout the world, they still happen in Southeast Asia in times of insecurity or war.

They have no minimum wage and low-level work may only net a person $2 a day.

Using a complex econometric model, economists Joerg Baten of the University of Tuebingen and Ulrich Woitek of the University of Munich connect grain prices with the fluctuating number of accusations of witchcraft.

The result: “[A] 30 percent decline [of real wages] implied a 60 percent increase in accusations,” Baten said.

“An econometric analysis of data from these regions demonstrates that in fact, there is a significant relationship between economic pressure and witch hunting activity,” the paper reads.

I don’t know where to go from there. It’s weird. They aren’t really helping their situation by accusing their neighbours of witchcraft. I’d be curious about the religious leanings of the perpetrators. The country is a mix of Buddhist, Christian and Muslim (and others) so deep down do they think they’re trying to please a god who might reward them? If they vanquish evil God might make the country prosperous. Or is it a violent attempt to fix the karma and bring them to a place of peace and harmony? Maybe it’s pointless asking for a rationale when people are being this irrational…

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: