A district police chief in Kompong Chhnang province was on Thursday suspended amid an investigation into claims that he raped a high-school student in his office before threatening to murder her family if she told anyone about the assault.
Hul Veasna, 42, chief of police in Kompong Tralach district, remains free, however, despite indications that authorities are taking the 19-year-old’s accusations seriously.
The young woman alleges that the police chief—who added her as a “friend” on Facebook about a month ago—raped her in his office on July 11 after luring her to the police station by offering to lend her his motorbike. He then vowed to shoot and kill her entire family if she said anything about the attack, she claims.
Mr. Veasna denies the allegations, saying that he and the 12th-grader “love each other.”
Provincial police questioned Mr. Veasna on Tuesday, the day after receiving the rape complaint, then searched his office at the district police station for evidence. Later that day, the police chief repeatedly attempted to convince the 19-year-old’s family to withdraw the complaint, offering them monetary compensation and proposing to marry the young woman, according to her older brother.
On Thursday, provincial police chief Prak Vuthy said that Mr. Veasna had been temporarily removed from his position.
“The suspension is to make the investigation easier, and we are still investigating the case,” Brigadier General Vuthy said, refusing to explain why Mr. Veasna had not been arrested. He also brushed aside the possibility that Mr. Veasna might follow through with his alleged death threat.
“I don’t know anything about this,” he said.
Mr. Veasna said Thursday that he had been replaced by his deputy, Meas Sopen. He said he had been staying at the provincial police headquarters, but was not being detained.
“I am eating and sleeping here,” he said. “I still deny the accusation.”
Mr. Veasna said he met the 19-year-old and her parents at the provincial office of rights group Adhoc on Thursday morning, where he offered to pay the family for any offense he might have caused, but that the mother rejected his proposal. Representatives of both Adhoc and rights group Licadho were present during the conversation.
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said he did not understand what Mr. Veasna had been trying to accomplish and called for his immediate arrest.
“The suspension is good, but not good enough,” Mr. Chankea said.
“The suspect is still free—he still has the right to go anywhere. I think this affects the investigation, the witness and the safety of the victim’s family.”
Mr. Veasna’s alleged victim said Thursday that she filed another complaint against him Thursday afternoon, with the Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court, and was scared that he would murder her.
“I am still afraid of the threat to kill me and my family,” she said, adding that she had been skipping school to avoid leaving her house. “I missed my exam because of the threat.”
Provincial court officials could not be reached Thursday.