The body of a 13-year-old girl was found submerged in a pond on Sunday after she was allegedly raped and murdered in Prey Veng province, police said.
The brutal attack, following the alleged rape of an 8-year-old girl on Friday in Kompong Cham province, brought the number of child rapes reported in the news media this year to at least 56.
A bicycle, which the teenage girl rode when leaving home on Saturday morning to tend to buffalo, was also retrieved from Thnol Thom pond in Sithor Kandal district’s Russei Sanh commune, said Von Sarith, chief of the district penal police bureau.
“The girl was found with her head floating on the surface of the water,” Mr Sarith said. “We assume that the rapist raped and killed the girl near the pond, then took all evidence and threw it in the water to eliminate traces.”
So far, police have not determined exactly where the crime took place or identified any suspects, he said. “It was difficult because the soil was hard, so we couldn’t find any footprints…. Surrounding the pond, there were lots of bushes where the crime could easily be committed.”
The girl’s neck was broken. She had a deep cut by her right eyebrow and her vagina was badly injured, he said, noting that a doctor from the district referral hospital concluded that she was raped.
Her trousers were removed and found with her bicycle, fished out of the pond about a kilometer from Yous village, he added.
A neighbor found the body at about 7 am after the family began a search at midday on Saturday after their daughter failed to return, having left home at 10:30 am, he said.
“During my experience in the police, I have never faced a brutal crime like this,” he said.
Ly Im, provincial investigator for the human rights group Adhoc, said that they were investigating the case in which police had in fact identified a suspect who had fled. “It was the first rape-murder case in two years, so it was a shock to villagers,” Ms Im said, noting that five rapes were recorded so far this year in the province.
In an unrelated matter, Kompong Cham Provincial Court on Sunday charged a 26-year-old man with the alleged rape of an 8-year-old girl in Memot district, deputy prosecutor Moung Sarin said.
Neighbor Phai Phin, 26, was arrested on Friday after the victim’s mother allegedly caught him during the crime behind their house in Choam Tamao commune, said Dim Hour, police chief of Memot district penal bureau.
“The suspect was found naked and on top of the naked girl after her mother used a flashlight to look for her daughter,” Mr Hour said, noting that shortly before Mr Phin said he needed to urinate and excused himself from drinking with her father. “The suspect confessed that he was drunk, and did not know what he was doing, so he caught and raped the girl.”
Thol Meng, deputy police chief of the provincial anti-human trafficking bureau, said that the high rate of rapes had not declined this year, during which 19 rapes and one rape and murder were reported in the province. “Children are vulnerable because they are physically weaker and easier for rapists to” target, he said.
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said that perpetrators of brutal rape murders were very seldom arrested. “This is a truly serious situation resulting from a lack of capacity of police in investigating these types of crimes,” said Ms Sochua. “There is case after case of rape, murder…but very little in terms of arrest.”
Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said that her ministry and the Ministries of Justice and Interior were focused on combating violence against women. “Since last year, to curb violence in society, the government has implemented a policy on safety in villages and communes,” Ms Kantha Phavi said.
Over the past two years, the Australia-funded Cambodia Criminal Justice Assistance Project trained police officers to investigate serious crimes and supported the development of national crime data system and community policing, said Susan Ball, an Australian Federal Police adviser to CCJAP.