Tun Naing, a self-proclaimed sorcerer, did not convince judges with his defense that he was possessed by an evil spirit when he beat the children to death
Tun Naing, who claims to be a sorcerer with powers of black magic, was sentenced to death in Myanmar Tuesday morning for the murder of three children, including an eight-month old baby, who he believed to be possessed by evils spirits.
Before beating the children to death in a small village outside of Yangon, he distributed “blessed” water – the ingredients of which are unknown – to onlookers including the children’s parents, who then lost their senses, according to witnesses. Naing then had onlookers join hands in a circle and recite magic spells before he began punching and kicking the children.
While the majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, beliefs in spirits are a part of everyday life and at times have even influenced policy decisions. In the 1980s, former military ruler Ne Win devastated the economy when he altered currency denominations so that they would add up to his lucky number, nine.
Self-proclaimed sorcerers who offer services such as the dispelling of evil spirits or insight into future misfortunes are fairly common, especially in rural parts of the country, however the case of extreme brutality shocked the country and prompted a harsh response by authorities.
If the court follows through with Naing’s death sentence he will be the first person officially executed in Myanmar in decades. More likely, however, his sentence will be commuted to a lengthy term in prison.
Defending himself outside of a courtroom, Naing told reporters that he’d been possessed by a “dark spirit” at the time of the killings.
“I did it because I lost control of my mind at that time as the dark spirit took over me,” he told the AFP.
For more on exorcisms, death and black magic, check out Southeast Asia Globe’s own investigation into sorcery killings in Cambodia in our upcoming July issue, available on newsstands or through our mobile app