More than a year after a Cambodian man accused of sorcery was stoned and beaten to death by a mob in his home village, his widow still struggles to understand the reasons for his murder and works to finish building a house he had dreamed of providing for his family.
Sitting in front of the half-finished house with family members nearby, Chev Chenda, now in her 30s, said her husband had no knowledge of black magic and was unfairly accused by those who killed him.
“We don’t know why they did this to us,” Chenda told an RFA Khmer Service reporter, becoming emotional as she recalled the details of her husband’s death at the hands of a crowd of hundreds, some of whom came from other areas to join in the attack.
“They just accused him for no reason,” she said. “I have been really angry, but have never known what to say or do about this.”
“I am still speechless now,” she said.
Deaths by sorcery
Chenda’s husband Pov Sovann, a traditional healer, was killed in April 2014 by a mob in Prey Chunluonh village in the Bati district of southern Cambodia’s Takeo province after being held responsible for the deaths by sorcery of seven villagers who had previously shown no symptoms of disease, according to Cambodian media reports.
Chenda, who fled to her aunt’s home during the attack while her husband tried to escape to another house, was separated from her husband during the assault, she said.
“Otherwise, I would have been with him, and they would have killed me too,” she said.
Many of those who took part in the attack still move freely around the village, while others have left the village to live elsewhere, she said.
Now, Chenda works to complete the construction of the house her husband had hoped to build before his death, borrowing money to finish the work, which is now 60 percent complete, she said.
“I always hoped that I could finish the construction, because my husband really loved the house we had started to build,” she said.
“We had both worked very hard,” she added.
Killers rarely caught
Mob killings in Cambodia of suspected sorcerers and thieves, in incidents previously numbering as many as 10 per year, have recently declined in number to about three or four a year, said Am Sam Ath, a senior official with the Cambodian human rights group Licadho.
Authorities find it difficult, though, in cases like these to identify individuals responsible for striking the final and fatal blows, he said.
“This means that those involved in the attacks are often identified, while those who do the actual killing are rarely found,” he said.
Chev Chenda meanwhile sees no hope for justice from Cambodian authorities or the courts, she says.
“If I had money, I would have some hope, but without money I can have no hope at all,” she said.
“There would be no one who would come to help.”
Reported by Yang Chandara for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Richard Finney.