Guards, Rebuked After Sex Worker Drowning, Accused of Beating

A Phnom Penh district security force that came under scrutiny earlier this year when a sex worker drowned after being chased has again been accused of overzealous patrolling, this time by a sex worker who said the guards physically attacked her as they chased her away from Wat Phnom.

The woman’s claims were dismissed as “defamation” by the chief of the Daun Penh security guards on Tuesday, who invited her to his office to provide evidence.

Ye Sam Oun, who also works at a bar on Riverside, said that she was slapped in the face and kicked from behind by multiple members of the Daun Penh district force when they attempted to move sex workers away from Wat Phnom on Sunday night.

Ms. Sam Oun, who is in her 30s, said she was left with a swollen face and back, and spent the next day at Calmette Hospital because she felt faint.

“I am preparing a complaint to submit to Wat Phnom commune police,” she said on Tuesday.

Her allegation comes after the death of Pen Kunthea, a 33-year-old sex worker who drowned in January after Daun Phen guards chased her toward the Tonle Sap river and made no attempt to rescue her after she fell while jumping between boats to escape, according to witnesses.

Kim Vutha, chief of the district guards, on Tuesday acknowledged the guards had attempted to clear sex workers from Wat Phnom on Sunday night, but said Ms. Sam Oun’s claim was “defamation” against him and his force.

“I will invite her to come to the district and show us the evidence, or point to which district guard beat her. Then I will take action,” he said.

Mr. Vutha said the force had been sweeping the area on Sunday as part of their routine to keep public order.

“We went to Wat Phnom to move those sex workers from there,” he said. “We didn’t beat her because we tried to maintain public order at there.”

Keo Tha, secretary-general of the Women’s Network for Unity, said authorities should find a better location for sex workers, rather than chasing and beating the women.

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.