Human rights workers alleged Monday that a 12-year-old girl was raped by three police officers over a three-day period at a commune police post in Siem Reap province last month and that the officers are now at large.
The officers allegedly raped the girl several times at Siem Reap district’s Srah Chak commune police post while holding her for three days in November after she ran away from home, said Suos Narin, a provincial monitor with local rights group Adhoc.
Officers Neang Sam Sineth, 25, and Kong Sokhun, 21, of Srah Chak commune police post, have been on the run since Dec 6, when they learned that their victim had contacted Adhoc, Suos Narin said.
A third provincial police officer, identified only as Ka, is also on the run, Suos Narin said.
“They kept her at their commune police station for three days and they raped her at the post,” Suos Narin said.
The officers allegedly summoned the girl to the police post Nov 11 after learning that she had run away from home, he said.
The victim, who appears to suffer mental difficulties, was assaulted while the officers were drunk. She was finally released on Nov 13, he added.
Mok Sam On, Siem Reap deputy provincial police chief, said that a warrant has not yet been issued for the arrest of the fugitive officers.
Police, he said, are preparing a report to the provincial court. He also disputed the victim’s age, claiming she was 16 years old and had consented to having sex with the three officers.
“The three policemen did not rape her. She had agreed with them to have sex, sometimes in the commune police post and sometimes at a guesthouse,” Mok Sam On said.
The officers, however, were guilty of damaging the reputation of the commune police office by having sex with the girl on the premises.
“They are destroying the police post’s reputation and we are working to arrest them,” he added.
Sun Bunthorng, Siem Reap provincial anti-human trafficking police chief, said the girl is 12 years old and now with the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, and that his staff are questioning her.
“We took photos of the more than 20 commune police officials for the girl to point out the rapists,” he said.
Chea Heng, chief of the juvenile protection police office, said he questioned the girl Monday and confirmed that she was 12 years old. He also confirmed the names of the three officers who raped the girl.
“When she was raped in that police post she was also drunk,” Chea Heng said. The girl had been seen around the police post and travelling in the company of the three officers.
After she was raped by the two commune police officers at their post she was handed over to a member of the provincial intervention police department, who raped her “in the jungle,” he said.
The three officers have fled, he added.
According to the victim’s birth certificate and family book, she was born in 1993, Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center investigator Chab Moun said.
Several other policemen have told the CWCC that they witnessed unidentified officers raping the girl during a drunken party, Chab Moun said.
“We have some police who are witnesses. They saw their activities when they raped her in a room at the police post when they were holding a party and drinking,” he said.
But the officers are afraid to name their colleagues for fear of retribution, he added.
The case comes at the end of what has been a troubled year for Cambodia’s police force.
Local-level police officials have been implicated in several shootings of land protestors in recent months. In September, former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in prison for shooting municipal court judge Sok Sethamony dead in 2003.
His conviction came after at least 10 police officers in the capital were arrested on charges of allegedly beating a suspect to death in police custody, assassinating Sok Sethamony and attempting to kill both National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha and Municipal Court Prosecutor Ouk Savouth.
There has also been an increasing problem with youth gang violence in Cambodia, which prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to warn last week that government officials would be replaced if they could not stem it.
Mu Sochua, former minister of women’s affairs and a member of the SRP, lamented the endemic problems in the nation’s police force.
Given the prevailing climate of impunity throughout the force, the Siem Reap rape allegations will likely be “another case of filed and forgotten,” she said.
“People no longer feel secure, and peace and social stability are being gravely and seriously affected by the lack of actions by the police and a lack of accountability of the highest ranking officials in the police force,” she said.
“I think it’s about time the Minister of Interior [Sar Kheng] came to address these issues” at the National Assembly, Mu Sochua added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy both declined to speak to a reporter Monday. A bodyguard for Ministry of Interior Penal Police Chief Mok Chito said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.
(Additional reporting by William Shaw and Yun Samean)