National Police on Monday released crime figures for the first half of the year, finding only 126 reported rapes and 36 sexual assault cases across the country—statistics a women’s rights leader said likely amounted to only a fraction of the abuse taking place.
Ros Sopheap, executive director of gender equality group Gender and Development Cambodia, said the reality was likely much worse.
“I think the number reported by the police is not accurate, because there are more cases that have not been reported that we don’t know about, and there is no system to monitor this,” she said.
Ms. Sopheap said rape was underreported by victims for two main reasons: fear of damaging reputations and distrust of authorities.
“They are reluctant to find justice through the court. They think that the suspect will become the victim and the victim will be criminalized,” she said.
A lack of female representation in local authoritative bodies does not help, she added, citing a recent case where parents chose to go to a female official at their child’s school first rather than the police.
“We don’t have women in local authorities. We do have women in the [commune-level] committees—the structure is there—but they cannot start their work because there is no budget, no plan,” she said.
The figures for the first half of the year were up from 104 reported rapes and 21 sexual assault cases in the same period last year.
Experts in the past have criticized the data—which is updated every six months—saying that officials underreport crime to make themselves look good.
“Many of the numbers of crime are underreported because the police usually worry about their ranking compared to their peers,” Thida Khus, head of women’s rights group Silaka, said in January.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at rights group Licadho, said on Monday that interviews this year with victims and perpetrators showed that alcohol, drugs and access to pornography played a part in the crimes. The suspect was usually a relative, he added.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantarith on Monday could not be reached for comment.