The mother of a girl who was allegedly tortured by her employer withdrew her complaint from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after accepting a $5,000 settlement as compensation.
The 17-year-old victim escaped from her employer, Kong Sinath, 33, in March after enduring 11 months of torture including being forced to eat her own vomit and drink her own urine, according to San Savy, the mother.
In court Thursday, Ms. Savy, 45, said the settlement had been reached out of court. “I agreed to receive $5,000 from Ms. Sinath and now I withdraw the complaint,” she said.
Ms. Savy’s daughter claims to have been beaten bloody with sticks, made to drink oil and forced to eat garbage in the 11 months she spent at Ms. Sinath’s motorcycle repair shop in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district.
Ms. Sinath’s lawyer Kay Visal told the court his client had occasionally slapped and hit the teen but insisted there was “no torture.”
He said the victim was only beaten when she caused trouble among the six other employees of Ms. Sinath.
In light of Ms. Savy’s decision to accept the compensation offer, defense lawyer Mr. Visal asked that the court discontinue the case against the defendant.
“As the victim has withdrawn her complaint, I request that the court drop the charges and release my client,” Mr. Visal said.
However, Soeur Vanny, deputy prosecutor at the court, told Presiding Judge Khy Chhay that she would continue to pursue the case. Ms. Vanny said that the victim’s testimony and a police report were enough to move forward.
“The prosecution maintains the charges against Ms. Sinath despite the victim withdrawing the complaint,” Ms. Vanny said.
The prosecutor said she would pursue charges under article 217 of the Criminal Code, which states that intentional acts of violence are punishable by one to three years in prison and fines of $500 to $1,500.
When the teenage victim first fled her employer’s home in March, she was given a place to stay by the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights. She still resides at the center and Thursday, its executive director, Nget Thy, said he would be monitoring Ms. Sinath’s case.
Mr. Thy said that while many of the accused that face the courts simply pay cash to escape formal charges, he would be pushing for Ms. Sinath to get jail time on top of the $5,000 she agreed to pay out.
“This is one of the problems of Cambodian law enforcement,” Mr. Thy said. “Sometimes, the prosecutor thinks that the suspect has paid $5,000 so they don’t have to continue with the case.”
“It is our responsibility to make sure the prosecutor continues with the case and the suspect still goes to jail according to Cambodian law.”
Judge Chhay said a verdict would be handed down on September 1.
(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)
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