5 Popular Witchcraft Cases From Southeast Asia

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Witchcraft would often conjure images of magical wands and brooms. However, that could be farther from the truth. Witchcraft, at its simplest form - is the practice of magic in relation to a folk tradition.

WARNING: Some of this can be graphic.

And there are many folk traditions across the world. From your Celtic Druids to Romanian mystics. Today, we’ll explore witchcraft from Southeast Asia, where magic is widely believed by the populace. More so that a lot of crimes were actually motivated by it!

Below are 5 of the most bizarre cases in the region.

Superstar witch

Mona Fandey’s childhood dream was to become a pop star. In her younger years, she worked hard to secure TV appearances and record albums. However, those endeavours did not prove successful.

Distraught, she explored several career fields during her mid-life crisis. Eventually, she made the unorthodox decision to pursue witchcraft.

Witchcraft in Malaysia is actually quite a lucrative profession. This is a norm in this region, as superstition runs rampant in all hierarchies of society. It is not uncommon for politicians to pay huge sums of money for ‘luck’ rituals or blessings.

This was the case with Mona Fandey’s new profession, as wealthy clients started engaging her services in droves. Soon enough, she owns a huge fleet of luxury cars and several mansions.

One day, she was approached by a rising politician named Mazlan Idris. Mazlan wanted to secure the best possible protection from Mona, as political rivals have been known to hex each other.

Mona therefore proposed a series of rituals, costing 2.5 million ringgit; which is approximately $650,000 USD then. Mazlan vehemently agreed and was given an amulet that was apparently worn by Indonesia’s ex-president Sukharno. This apparently made Mazlan invincible.

Mazlan was then asked to visit Mona at her home, where she and her assistant prepped Mazlan for a “cleansing” ritual, likely to eliminate any pre-existing hexes. Soon she told Mazlan to close his eyes and wait for money to fall from the ceiling. Suddenly, without warning, Mona drew an axe and chopped Mazlan’s head right off.

The motive is somewhat unclear, but it was likely a ritualistic murder. Mazlan was noticed missing, but investigators had no leads. It was not until Mona’s assistant was caught drugged did he confess to the murder. The details are even more gruesome.

Apparently, Mazlan’s corpse was half skinned after the murder; with his body dismembered into 18 different parts. Apparently, some of which Mona, the assistant and her husband may have eaten.

The case was clear cut, and the trio was given the death penalty. Even creepier. Mona was always smiling whenever news reporters were filming her. It was as if she relished all the attention she was receiving.

In what was likely the creepiest thing to say before her death, she muttered "Aku takkan mati” (I will never die).

Don’t place a hex on Caprice

This is the most lighthearted case in this list. Caprice is a Malaysian rapper with a rather huge following. Somehow, becoming popular in Southeast Asia could spell trouble even to the most innocent.

While returning home from a movie, Caprice stumbled upon a mysterious object placed in front of his jeep. As pictured above, a charred remains of what seemed to be a cockroach, along with a strand of hair - is shown on the floor.

Caprice and many Malaysians claim that this is a hex that brings bad luck. Interestingly enough, Caprice himself claimed that many odd events have been happening to the people around him. This was the final straw.

Caprice therefore offered $9,900 USD to anyone who could give the names of the Bomoh (witch) or person who had placed a hex on him. Caprice is definitely not playing around.

Briton tries to smuggle charred fetuses into Taiwan

A British national was caught carrying six charred fetuses in his luggage in Bangkok. The man was about to smuggle these corpses to Taiwan, where he could sell each baby for six times the cost.

The man bought them all for 4,000 GBP, likely from local undertakers - who are known to collect male fetuses who were aborted. Such fetuses are believed to provide “good luck”, providing wealth and opportunities to the caretaker of these fetuses.

Called Kuman Thong, these babies are highly sought after in all parts of Asia. Black Monks would procure these corpses and perform rituals to summon their souls. Some would even extract these souls and imbue them into dolls.

Although it is not common for fetuses to be exported, it is a common export among spiritual enthusiasts across Asia. If one chooses to keep such a doll, the caretaker must provide food, sweets and toys like an actual child. If one misses a day, the child spirit would wreak havoc. Causing poltergeist like activity or bringing misfortune upon the caretaker.

Despite being a predominantly Buddhist country, belief in such folklore still exists. To some, they are even as real as physical items. It is hard to pinpoint when the kuman thong rituals first began, however, they could be dated back to the Khmer empire period.

Black monks still continue to exist today. They maintain a low profile, and much like Malaysia’s bomoh, they can perform hexes or other types of offensive magic.
Burmese witch doctor kills children in exorcism

This case shows how prevalent spiritualism is in Southeast Asia, especially in rural areas.

Twante is a township located in Myanmar, with a population of approximately 200,000. There, 65 villages and 8 urban wards occupy most of the surrounding zones - with many working in the fishing industry.

Life was relatively simple and quiet in Twante, until this happened. A local ‘exorcist’ was commissioned to exorcise the possessed body of Nay La-lin, a 3 year old boy. Villagers were given a cup of holy water to drink, before the exorcist proceeded to punch and kick the boy.

Onlookers continued to stare as the exorcist’s beatings became more intense. Soon, the boy’s breathing became laboured as more beatings were thrown. Eventually, La-lin became eerily still while the exorcist dumped his body into a nearby canal. Still in a trance, the villagers could not parse the situation.

Upon returning, the exorcist continues to beat three, non-possessed girls mercilessly. Just like La-lin, two of the girls stopped moving and crying - while the other was bruised badly.

All together, this “exorcist” had murdered three children. He was soon locked up in prison with sources not detailing his verdict.

Perhaps out of guilt or superstition, many villagers did not attend La-lin’s funeral. However, this case rocked the region, as many could not believe the cruel circumstances of this case. What is even more odd is how many villagers visited other “mysticists” after this incident, to cleanse away the bad luck they have just absorbed.

Indonesia’s Ted Bundy (Or America’s Ahmad Suradji)

Save the best for the last they say, and boy do we have a case for you.

Back in 1986, Ahamad Suradji was a cattle farmer who offered witchcraft services on the side. He was known as dukun, a medicine man of sorts for the local community.

One evening, Ahmad had dreamt of his deceased Father, who ordered him to drink the saliva of 70 women. This would in turn make Ahmad a powerful mystic healer.

Ahmad took his premonitions seriously. He knew he could not easily convince 70 women to give him his saliva, so he decided to murder them.

Ahmad went on a killing spree, luring women to his property through his reputation as a dukun. He promised them beauty and charm spells, requesting that they head out to his sugarcane field for the ritual.

He then asked his clients to dig a hole, deep enough to which they could fit. As part of the “ritual”, he would then bury the women waist deep. He somehow managed to convince them to do so as his three wives were complicit, often reassuring them about the ritual.

Once half buried, Ahmad would proceed to strangle the women to death. Extracting their saliva afterwards. As a hole was already dug, Ahmad would simply bring the women out, remove their clothing, and proceed to bury them with their heads facing his house. He believed this gave him more power.

Ted Bundy had confessed to killing 30 women. Ahmad however, had killed 42 women. An entire excavation process had to be commissioned, in order to retrieve all 42 bodies.

The case rocked the entire nation, as witchcraft is widely practiced in the nation.

Many were somewhat unsurprised as Dukuns often have dubious practices. Today, you could still find dukuns in remote villages of Indonesia - each with differing practices.

In 2008, Ahmad was executed by firing squad. While his wife was given a lifelong sentence.


Nicholas works to preserve local and regional traditions through writing. He and his Father run Buddhist funeral services in Singapore.