Man Who Slapped Schoolgirl Claims He Has Mental Illness

A man who entered a Phnom Penh high school and slapped a teenager who had been fighting with his daughter told the municipal court on Friday that he was mentally ill and had lied about working at the Council of Minis­ters, hoping it would protect him.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court nonetheless charged Tep Khuon, 49, with intentional violence over the altercation. Judge Heng Sokna said that despite having compensated the victim with $500, Mr. Khuon would not be im­­mune from the law.

“We have evidence he committed the crime so he has to face justice,” Judge Sokna said.

A video of the assault posted to Facebook on Wednesday shows Mr. Khuon slapping Nhem Chan­thida, 16, across the face after saying that he “had permission from the principal”—a claim that was denied by Ngov Chhunhak, principal of Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang High School.

Before his hearing yesterday, Mr. Khuon played down the force in his strike, revealed that he had lied to police about his job and claimed that he was mentally ill.

“My daughter was hit and grabbed by the neck and hair,” he said. “And [Chanthida] yelled at me until I was so angry that I slapped her face. Anyway, it wasn’t so serious, it was more like I touched her face.”

“I am so sorry I used the Coun­cil of Ministers to try and protect myself,” he said, claiming that he is actually the director of an NGO named the Women’s Development Organization.

“I was aggressive and lied be­cause I am mentally ill. You know mentally ill people say things that are useless.”

Judge Sina ordered that Mr. Khuon be placed in provisional detention.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Mr. Khuon had also hurt the reputation of a government body.

“He should be punished by the law because his claims affect the reputation of a state institution and the officials at the Council of Ministers,” Mr. Sothea said.

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