A 2-year-old girl in Kratie province and an 8-year-old girl in Phnom Penh became the latest victims of child rape late last week in a year that has already seen more than 100 such attacks on children, prompting calls for a countrywide campaign to highlight the prevalence of the brutal crime.
The Kratie Provincial Court on Monday charged Hor Panha, a 21-year-old motorcycle repairman, with raping a 2-year-old girl inside his house in Sambor district’s O’Kireng commune on Thursday afternoon, said Huot Limheang, chief of the provincial police’s serious crimes unit.
“The suspect denied raping her and claimed he just took the girl for a walk,” Mr. Limheang said.
District police chief Bun Chhoeurn said the suspect and the child were neighbors in O’Kandieng village.
Doctors at Siem Reap referral hospital confirmed that the toddler had been raped, he said, adding that the suspect was arrested on Friday.
In a separate case, Mork Chamroeun, a 49-year-old construction worker living in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, was arrested Monday for raping an 8-year-old girl who had been walking past his house, district police chief Mak Hong said.
“We arrested the suspect,” Mr. Hong said, declining to comment further on the attack.
Local rights group Adhoc recorded 120 cases of child rape in the first seven months of the year. A report released by the U.N. in September found that 1 in 5 men have raped a woman, with more than half of them having committed their first rape before they turned 20. On October 12, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for raping two sisters, aged 5 and 9, in Banteay Meanchey province.
“It is disgusting [and] it needs a campaign…to give victims protection so they can talk,” said Mu Sochua, a CNRP lawmaker-elect and former minister of women’s affairs, adding that a nationwide campaign with a prominent “flag-bearer” is necessary to ensure that victims and their families feel safe reporting the crime to police.
There should also be an effort to provide immediate psychological counseling to the victims of child rape, Ms. Sochua said.
Denise Shepherd-Johnson, chief of communication at Unicef Cambodia, said there is currently too little information on child rape in Cambodia.
“I think people [in Cambodia] are shocked and frightened and outraged…but one of the challenges is that people aren’t aware the impact of some of what happens and they don’t know how to protect their children,” Ms. Shepherd-Johnson said.
“Where is it happening, why is it happening, is it a cultural thing, is it a gender thing?” she asked, adding that a new Unicef study that will be released early next year seeks to answer these questions.
“When that happens, there will be a major campaign,” she said.
Ms. Shepherd-Johnson also drew a contrast between the situation in Cambodia to that in India and South Africa, where recent child rape cases have prompted a national outcry and mass demonstrations.
“We don’t want something truly heinous to happen in Cambodia before everybody picks up on it.”