Girl Tells Court of Abuse From Adoptive Mom

The 8-year-old girl at the center of a criminal abuse case testified Wednesday in Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court that her adoptive mother whipped her with electrical wires and beat her almost daily, and she asked the court not to return her to the adoptive moth­er’s custody.

Wednesday was the first day in the trial for Keo Sokuntheavy, the adoptive mother who is accused of beating her daughter.

“Mom whipped me [nearly] every day….I will not live with mother because I am scared she will beat me [again],” the girl told Municipal Judge Bunninh Bunary.

Two neighbors also testified against the mother. They said the girl was severely whipped and that neighbors asked local au­thorities for help.

Van Von, the child’s father, left a note with the court asking that the child not be returned to the adoptive mother “because [the mother] had beaten my child,” said Bunninh Bunary, who read the note in open court.

While Keo Sokuntheavy admitted that she pinched the child, she denied that she ever whipped the child.

Khiev Sepphan, Keo Sokun­theavy’s attorney, said the girl might have been coached or co­erced against her will, but the girl told the court nobody had in­struct­ed her on what to say.

The custody battle began in February when the human rights group Licadho removed the girl from her adoptive mother’s custody after receiving complaints that the mother was beating the child. That led Keo Sokuntheavy to file a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Licadho for illegally confining the child.

The Ministry of Social Affairs eventually granted Licadho temporary custody of the child.

In addition to the testimony of witnesses, attorneys submitted a hospital report from the Phnom Penh Health Center dated Feb 15, the day after Licadho took the girl from Keo Sokuntheavy.

According to the report, the child had bruises on her body and her head was injured and required three stitches.

The judge will hand down a verdict in the case on Dec 17.


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