Nineteen-year-old Cheng Srey Pao had been in Phnom Penh only 17 days when she was propositioned by a customer at the karaoke bar she worked in.
She refused. And so the man pulled out his gun and shot her through the forehead, police said Wednesday.
Police said they know who the killer is—his name is San and he is a member of a security force. Pol Pithey, chief of police for Don Penh district, vowed to arrest the man “soon.”
But human rights workers say they doubt the gunman will ever go to trial.
“I would be surprised,” said Chanthol Oung, executive director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center.
The case promises to be just one more example of the violence, lawlessness and impunity that permeate Cambodian society.
Chanthol Oung’s organization has tracked several cases of soldiers or security forces involved in shootings or robberies.
“Most of these cases have no arrest. Very few are arrested,” she said Thursday. “I think if there is no arrest the army feels free to do whatever they want.”
Two days after Tuesday morning’s shooting, the Mondial Karaoke Club on Street 154 was closed. And the Phnom Penh Municipality ordered closed any karaoke clubs within 200 meters of a school, though most of the clubs in the area appeared unaffected Thursday.
Friends of Cheng Srey Pao’s in nearby clubs said the girl had just arrived from Prey Veng province.
“She was very poor,” recalled one friend Thursday.
The girl took a job as a waitress and sometime singing partner at the club. She lived in a room upstairs because she had no family in the capital, friends said.
Monday night, three men in plain clothes came into the club, drinking and singing past midnight, witnesses said. When they went to leave, one man insisted that Cheng Srey Pao come with him. She refused, and died. The killer and his two friends escaped, leaving behind their weapon.
Pol Pithey, the police chief, blamed easy access to firearms for an increase in lawlessness.
“The morality in society is declining and illegal use of weapons is on the rise,” he said.
Yi Kosal Vathana, chief of investigations for the human rights group Adhoc, said Thursday the shooting is an all-too-familiar symptom of impunity for police and security forces.
“Offenders are not afraid of the law because the law is not effective. Police do not strictly enforce the law,” he said.