CNRP Lawmakers Request Probe Into Drowned Sex Worker

Opposition lawmakers have submitted letters to National Assembly President Heng Samrin calling on government ministers to investigate the death of a sex worker who drowned in the Tonle Sap river while being chased by state security guards earlier this month.

Letters to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi, urging them to seek justice for the victim and her family, “are on his desk,” CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said on Monday.

cam photo sex worker WEB featured
Pen Kunthea about three years ago in a photograph supplied by her family.

Pen Kunthea, a 33-year-old sex worker, died while trying to escape district guards, who had been conducting raids and arresting sex workers near the riverside in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on January 1. Witnesses said she slipped jumping from one boat to another at the Wat Phnom docks, hitting her head on the way down to the water, at which point the guards left her to drown.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long confirmed he had received the letters and forwarded them to Mr. Samrin, though he did not know if Mr. Samrin had endorsed them.

In the letter to Mr. Kheng, the lawmakers call for the “establishment of a neutral committee to investigate and find justice” for Pen Kunthea, whose death they described as not only preventable but caused by the Daun Penh guards.

“This case…clearly shows that the security group had real intentions of leaving the victim to drown,” it says, adding that “the Daun Penh security group shall be guilty” for murder and premeditated murder.

The letters to the interior and justice ministers say that a criminal case must be opened despite the victim’s sister agreeing to accept “donations” from the district government in exchange for not pursuing legal remedies.

In their letter to Ms. Phavi, the lawmakers asked the minister to create the committee as there were other cases of sex workers experiencing abuse at the hands of the guards.

“Your Excellency must intervene in this case to protect the rights, dignity and value of women in general to avoid violence, which is a principle of Neary Rattanak,” it says, referring to the ministry’s policy to promote gender equality.

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