BANGKOK: Superstitions more suited to the 16th century rather than the 21st have claimed the life of a teenage girl, who succumbed after undergoing a ritual to banish a "black magic curse".
Police in Chaiyaphum's Kaeng Khro district are now looking for three men identifying as monks who were allegedly involved in a ritual that required the 18-year-old to drink two large bowls of "holy water", after which she expired.
The cause of the girl's death remains a mystery as the monks have fled and removed traces of the so-called holy water, while the body has been cremated.
During the ritual on Sunday, the girl vomited and went into shock, after which she was taken to Krang Khro Hospital and then in critical condition to the better-equipped Chaiyaphum Hospital, where she was pronounced dead from a violent seizure that had deprived her brain of oxygen.
The case came to the attention of the public when the girl's parents, Khan Cherdjorhor, 48, and Doungjit Khanakhao, 38, filed a police complaint on Tuesday.
Khan said they regretted believing one of the monks, a visitor to the village temporarily residing at an abandoned temple since March 18, who had told them that their daughter was cursed and had to undergo a ritual.
The girl's father added that before the ritual, his daughter had appeared fine and did not display any symptoms of sickness.
Chaiyaphum public health official Dr Passakorn Chaiyaset said it was difficult to determine the cause of death as the monks had fled the temple and there were not any samples left of the liquid, which could have been tested for toxins.
The girl's body has been cremated without autopsy, he said, adding that the case hinged upon police's effort to locate and question the monks.
Passakorn also warned people not to participate in strange rituals, especially involving drinking or eating anything of unknown origin.
Khan said the family had held the girl's cremation ceremony on Wednesday in line with a local tradition of cremation after a maximum three-day funeral prayer.
He added that the monk who had performed the ritual had insisted that the holy water did not contain anything that could have harmed the girl, adding that it could not have been a factor in her death.
He said the monks had promised him that they would take responsibility for the girl's death, but then had fled the temple, leading him to file a police complaint. One of the monks is described as elderly, while the other two are middle-aged.