A man who was arrested in July after he showed up at his daughter’s high school and slapped her classmate following a fight between the two teenagers told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday that he only attacked the girl because he thought of her “like a daughter.”
Tep Khuon, 49, was arrested on July 1 and charged with intentional violence two days later after a video of him slapping Nhem Chanthida, 16, across the face at Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang High School surfaced on Facebook.
Following his arrest, Mr. Khuon told police that he was an official at the Council of Ministers, but later admitted that he was not, going on to claim that he was the director of an NGO called the Women’s Development Organization and was suffering from a mental illness.
On trial Wednesday, Mr. Khuon confessed to the assault and said he entered the school grounds with the vice principal’s permission after his daughter called him to complain that Ms. Chanthida pulled her hair during an argument.
Upon arriving at the school, Mr. Khuon told the court, he only intended to reprimand Ms. Chanthida, but lost his temper when she shouted at him. He said he also lashed out at the girl because she had been a close friend of his family, sometimes coming for meals at his house.
“I scolded her, but she shouted at me, so I slapped her once across the face because I think of her like a daughter because she calls me ‘Papa’ and my wife ‘Mummy,’” he said.
Asked by Presiding Judge Leang Samnath whether he had learned his lesson since being sent to prison, Mr. Khuon replied: “I am aware and accept my mistake, and next time I will not let this kind of incident happen again.”
Hak Sina, a lawyer for Mr. Khuon, said his client should be released, citing the $500 he paid to Ms. Chanthida.
“My client is an older person with an illness, so please, judge, lighten the sentence of my client and let him go out to get treatment and earn a living,” he said.
Judge Samnath said a verdict in the case would be announced on September 21.