A Kompong Chhnang provincial court sentenced a rice farmer to 18 years in prison for killing a 5-year-old girl, a court official said.
Hok Hel, 45, of Tuk Phos district, was convicted of murder for the July machete slaying of Uo Srey Mao and ordered to pay
10 million riel (about $2,500) in compensation, Kompong Chhnang provincial Prosecutor Mak Pany said.
The attack occurred as Uo Srey Mao and her mother were working in the field where Hok Hel charged them with a machete, the prosecutor said.
Screaming that he had to kill at least one person per day, Hok Hel snatched the girl and ran away with her. After running for several meters, he stopped and hacked the girl’s throat, throwing her corpse to the ground. He then lapped up her blood as it soaked into the ground, Mak Pany said.
When villagers who saw the attack began chasing after him, Hok Hel ran to a nearby farmhouse and hid upstairs. He then set fire to the shack and would have burned to death if neighbors had not doused the flames, Mak Pany said.
Of his fine, 6 million riel (about $1,500) will go to Uo Srey Mao’s mother, Loun Yean, 44, and the rest to Pen Sophea, owner of the home Hok Hel set ablaze, the provincial prosecutor said.
During his trial, Hok Hel admitted to having killed the girl, but would not say why, leaving authorities to suspect he may have been a traumatized former Khmer Rouge soldier—a suspicion Hok Hel has also denied.
“I tried to convince him to tell me why he killed the girl, but he didn’t say anything. I think he has killed people like this before,” Mak Pany said.
Experts say mental illness continues to plague Cambodia as millions of traumatized souls try to come to terms with a regime that nearly drove their country to extinction. Some residents in Tuk Phos district, however, are convinced Hok Hel was possessed by an evil spirit, Mak Pany said.
“This isn’t a ghost story, because he could describe the actions he took to kill the girl,” he said.