Judge Hands Down 10-Year Sentence for July Rape of Girl

An 18-year-old man was on Thursday sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of a 9-year-old girl in Phnom Penh in July.

Veth Seanghak, who stocked shelves and helped customers at a grocery store the victim’s parents operated out of their house in Dangkao district, had been living with the family temporarily and snuck into the child’s room and raped her at about 4 a.m. on July 3, according to police and court officials.

The girl told her parents what had happened the following day, and the parents immediately notified local police. Mr. Seanghak was arrested several hours later and confessed to attempting to rape the child.

Under questioning by Presiding Judge Svay Tonh at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court during his trial last month, Mr. Seanghak said he assaulted the girl because he wanted to experience sex after watching pornographic videos on his smartphone. “I just wanted to find out,” he said.

At the time, his lawyer, Mon Vimeanchampa, argued that Mr. Seanghak should be treated leniently because he did not understand the severity of his actions.

“Because of wanting to know… [about sex], he did not consider his act against the girl to be rape,” she said. “He did not know about sexual activities and he wanted to try it.”

But despite this defense and the lawyer’s request that her client be given a light sentence due to the fact that he was 17-years-old when he committed the crime, Judge Tonh announced on Thursday that Mr. Seanghak had been found guilty of rape of a minor.

“The court has decided to sentence the defendant, Veth Seanghak, to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay 5 million riel [about $1,250] in compensation,” he said.

Ms. Vimeanchampa said the sentence was too severe and that she would discuss appealing the verdict with her client.

The victim’s lawyer, Poeung Kalyan, said she welcomed the decision.

“I appreciate it…and I accept it,” she said.

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