A 19-year-old man suspected of raping his cousin’s 4-year-old daughter on three separate occasions was charged by the Siem Reap Provincial Court on Sunday, two days after the most recent assault, military police officials said on Monday.
Huy Sarum, who occasionally worked as a bicycle repairman, was arrested at his home in Puok district on Saturday after the victim’s family filed a complaint with authorities, according to Ang Sen, chief of the provincial military police’s human trafficking bureau.
“The court charged the suspect with aggravated rape,” Mr. Sen said, adding that Mr. Sarum had been sent to the provincial prison to await trial.
District military police commander Chea Sina said the victim’s parents had decided not to file complaints over the previous two rapes, despite being aware of the assaults, which occurred while they were working in Siem Reap City.
“The suspect’s parents just dealt with the victim’s parents and persuaded them not to file a complaint with authorities,” Mr. Sina said.
The military police commander said Friday’s assault occurred when Mr. Sarum, who lived across the street from the victim’s family, persuaded the 4-year-old to go with him into the shrubbery behind her house—unbeknownst to the girl’s grandmother, who was at home with her. The rape was interrupted when neighborhood children saw the attack in progress and alerted the grandmother, Mr. Sina said.
“When the grandmother of the victim arrived on the scene, the suspect had already fled,” Mr. Sina said.
The victim’s parents filed a complaint with police the following day, he added.
“We arrested the suspect on the same day that the parents went to file the complaint,” he said, explaining that Mr. Sarum was apprehended at a bicycle-repair shop near his home.
Mr. Sarum confessed to the rapes during questioning at the district military police headquarters, according to Mr. Sina.
Mom Mon, chief of Chambok He village, where the suspect and victim lived, said the family’s decision to finally file a complaint after the latest assault had come after the victim’s mother approached him Friday evening for advice.
“After the first and second rapes, the victim’s mother didn’t want to file a complaint because she said she would have been ashamed if everyone knew her daughter had been raped…and because the mother and suspect are cousins,” Mr. Mon said.
“After I learned about these rapes, I forced the victim’s parents to go file the complaint.”
Ros Sopheap, director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the family’s reticence to file a complaint was not surprising.
“This society is a very strong patriarchal society,” she said, adding that the threat of stigmatization, as well as a lack of trust in the country’s court system, led many sexual assaults to go unreported.
Families of rape victims, she said, “feel like the community people—especially the men—will devalue their daughter…and she will not be able to marry a suitable husband.”
(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)