Construction Worker Arrested While Raping Schoolgirl

A 21-year-old man was arrested in Banteay Meanchey province on Monday while raping a 12-year-old girl he had grabbed off her bicycle as she rode home from school, and later admitted to raping a 9-year-old girl earlier this month, police said Tuesday.

Deputy provincial police chief Seth Los said local police had arrested Moeun Set, a construction worker, in Mongkol Borei district’s Chamnoam commune after a resident reported the crime to authorities.

“While one girl was riding her bicycle on the road, he came to grab her from behind and raped her,” Mr. Los said. “This man is a suspect in the rape of two girls in the commune this month.”

Commune police chief In Sam Ath said Mr. Set had been hiding in the forest along the road and grabbed the 12-year-old when she fell behind a group of girls she had been cycling home with.

“Yesterday, after waiting for about three hours, he saw one girl riding a bicycle, and ran after her for about 70 meters before raping her,” he said. “At that time, a female farmer who was nearby called the police to go and arrest him.”

Mr. Sam Ath said police at first had trouble locating Mr. Set, but then caught him in the act of raping the girl.

“At the moment just after his arrest, the suspect denied having committed rape, but after three hours, he confessed to everything that he did,” he said.

The police chief said Mr. Set admitted to the earlier rape of a 9-year-old schoolgirl on January 6, which he committed under similar circumstances, telling police that he raped her after tricking a group of students that had been cycling home to follow him into the forest.

“He stopped nine children, including six girls, by lying to them, saying there was a robber on the way,” he said.

“The suspect then ordered four girls to take their clothes off and lay on the ground. The suspect then raped one girl, and was preparing to rape the others, but then the other children shouted for help.”

Mr. Los, the deputy provincial police chief, said Mr. Set made various excuses for why he raped the girls.

“He confessed to having raped for three reasons: The first was that he…is a drug addict. The second was that he felt drunk when he committed the crimes. The last is that his wife is a pregnant woman who cannot have sex with him,” he said.

“The suspect is still being detained at the provincial police station for further questioning,” Mr. Los said, adding: “We will send him to the court tomorrow to face charges.”

According to figures provided by rights group Adhoc on Tuesday, there were 201 reported cases of child rape in 2014. In 2013, Adhoc figures show, there were 177 cases of child rape.

Women’s Affairs Ministry director-general Khieu Sereysothea said she was not sure why the number of reported child rapes had increased but said the government was working on the issue.

“We are already working with Unicef to study that issue,” Ms. Sereysothea said, adding that the police were ultimately more responsible for crimes such as child rape than her ministry.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, said reports of child rape are on the rise mainly due to lax enforcement of punishments for the crime.

“There is a bad habit where suspects in rape cases are released without conviction,” Mr. Sam Ath said.

“Another issue is that child-rape cases are not sent to court because the families of the suspects will pay compensation outside of the court.”

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