Kidnapping Suspect Stole Baby as Replacement

A 37-year-old woman who admitted to stealing a newborn baby from the Meanchey District Referral Hospital on Monday claims she did so because she had miscarried her own baby just days before and was afraid to go home to her husband without a child.

Speaking Thursday at Meanchey district police station where she is detained, Sok Chanthy said that she had lost her baby while giving birth on October 17, and had spent the sub­sequent four days scouring the city to snatch a re­placement.

“I couldn’t go home to my husband without the baby because he would leave me,” she said. “So I went to other hospitals to find another baby [to steal]. I looked at many babies and touched many babies’ faces and asked the mothers if I could hold them, but none would let me.”

After four days and three nights moving between relatives’ and friends houses, afraid to go home or answer her phone, late Monday af­ternoon Ms. Chanthy came across 18-year-old Kov Srey Leak, who had just hours earlier given birth to a baby boy at the Mean­chey hospital, she said.

“The first time I saw [Ms. Srey Leak’s] baby, it didn’t have any clothes on but I chose it because I loved it the most,” Ms. Chanthy said.

The new mother’s 19-year-old brother was helping take care of the baby, Ms. Chanthy said, claiming that she gave him 20,000 riel (about $5) to go and buy clothes for the child so that she could then convince the mother to allow her to take the baby for a bath.

“And then I took my baby out of the hospital and asked a motodop to take me to the 2,500-riel shop where I bought new clothes and [a bottle] for my baby,” Ms. Chanthy said, referring to the child she is accused of abducting.

Upon arriving at her home in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune, Ms. Chanthy said she was scolded by her husband for going missing for four days.

Local print and broadcast media on Tuesday ran stories alleging that a woman in pink and purple pajamas had abducted Ms. Srey Leak’s newborn baby. Less than 24 hours after the abduction, a female friend of Ms. Srey Leak’s grandfather, and neighbor of Ms. Chanthy, claimed to have—in a seemingly re­­markable coincidence—seen the suspect hanging out pink and purple pajamas to dry at her home.

Authorities were alerted, and the family was quickly reunited with the baby, and Ms. Chanthy was arrested.

Speaking from her hospital bed Thursday, Ms. Srey Leak said she “did not hate” the woman who allegedly tried to steal her baby.

“If she was going to sell my baby, I would be very angry at her, but she just wanted to feed my baby and keep him,” she said.

Kong Samorn, Meanchey district penal police chief, said Ms. Chanthy would be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to be charged Friday.

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