Thalaborivath district police in Stung Treng province on Tuesday arrested two traditional healers over the death of a woman who they beat several times to drive away a spirit.
Major Khem Bunly, deputy district police chief, identified the husband and wife traditional healers as Soum Srung, 60, and Sun Chhuon, 58, who lived in the district’s Samang commune.
Maj Bunly said that the killing took place at about 5.30pm in the couple’s house in the commune’s Chhvaing village along the Cambodian-Lao border.
He identified the victim as Long Sem, 64, a farmer in the village who visited the suspects to seek a remedy for a fever and joint pain.
Maj Bunly said that in her police report, the victim’s daughter Sim Oun, 47, said that she took her mother to the couple’s house for treatment.
He said that the suspects told Ms Sem that she was possessed by a spirit before beating her with a large bamboo stick “to drive away the ghost”.
“Mr Srung held the victim down while his wife beat her several times,” Maj Bunly said. “Because Ms Sem tried to move away from the beating, Mr Srung stepped on her throat to restrain her and she died on the spot.”
He noted that Ms Oun quickly fled the house to lodge a police report and the couple was arrested later that evening.
Maj Bunly said that during their interrogation, the couple admitted to treating the victim, but claimed that she died because she was weak from her illness.
He added that both suspects said they regretted the incident and promised to stop practising healing.
A senior provincial police officer, who declined to be named, said that the two suspects are accused of committing intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances and face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
He added that they are detained for further questioning and will be sent to Stung Treng Provincial Court today.
The police officer said that most villagers are poor and cannot afford to seek medical treatment at clinics.
He added that as a result, they often seek treatment from sorcerers who offer cheaper services.
The officer urged poor people to go to government health centres or hospitals if they fall ill instead of consulting traditional healers.