Despite initial hopes that the man who tortured her 2-year-old son last year would face trial in Cambodia, the child’s mother said on Tuesday that Vietnamese police have informed her that the abuser would not be extradited from Vietnam.
Nguyen Thanh Dung, a Vietnamese national, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in December after graphic videos were leaked online showing him repeatedly torturing the Cambodian boy, at one point blindfolding him and using a taser on various parts of his body.
Vietnamese police discussed Mr. Nguyen’s prosecution during a four-hour interview on Monday at the Phnom Penh office of the Child Protection Unit (CPU), a policing charity that has been involved in the investigation, the mother said.
“I said if it is possible to bring him to Cambodia, then bring him to be prosecuted in
Cambodia, but they said because he was arrested in Vietnam, they couldn’t send him to Cambodia,” she said. “I wanted him to be prosecuted in Cambodia because the penalty is more serious than in Vietnam.”
Mr. Nguyen, 34, was charged by a Vietnamese court in December with “violence on other,” which carries a three-year prison sentence, said So Sovann, deputy police chief of Mondolkiri province, where the abuse allegedly took place. Mr. Nguyen has been jailed since his arrest.
If he were returned to Cambodia, he likely would be charged with aggravated torture and acts of cruelty, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
James McCabe, head of operations for CPU, said after Mr. Nguyen’s arrest that returning him to Cambodia was the right thing to do, though the effort was bound to be difficult given the high-profile nature of the case.
“But it will be a good outcome if he’s returned to face justice in Cambodia, which is the appropriate venue for any charges to be laid,” he said in December.
Mr. McCabe said on Tuesday that it had not yet been determined where Mr. Nguyen would be put on trial.
Six Vietnamese police officers and a deputy prosecutor who arrived in Phnom Penh on Monday went to Mondolkiri on Tuesday to collect more evidence, meet with Cambodian police and court officials, and interview workers at the cacao plantation where the child’s parents previously worked and where the abuse and its filming allegedly took place, Mr. Sovann said.
“We are cooperating with each other to comprehensively build the case against the offender,” he said. “We need to continue to investigate more.”
The plantation owner, Dutchman Stefan Struik, who was Mr. Nguyen’s boyfriend, was arrested and charged in December for allegedly concealing evidence and failing to report the abuse. Mr. Struik is being provisionally detained in the Mondolkiri Provincial Prison.
Mr. Sovann said the Vietnamese investigators did not share information about Cambodia’s request to extradite Mr. Nguyen during the meeting in Mondolkiri on Tuesday.
“They didn’t respond. It depends on the upper level,” he said, referring to senior officials of both countries.
The boy, his parents and two sisters moved to Sihanoukville in mid-December after his father was offered a job at a mango plantation owned by tycoon Mong Reththy, who also offered the family shelter and daily food allowances.
While her son has been slowly recovering from the trauma he experienced last year, the boy’s mother said on Tuesday that she was still haunted by the one video she had watched of her son being tortured.
“Having seen my child abused broke my heart,” she said. “When I was watching it, I was afraid, couldn’t catch my breath and was speechless.”
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