Married Couple Tried in Child Torture Case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried Meas Neary, 41, and her husband Va Savoeun, 62, who were arrested last year for the brutal torture of their 11-year-old servant.

In October, after a neighbor spotted and reported the severely abused child, whose body was covered in scars, the couple were arrested and charged with causing serious injury as well as child trafficking through adoption-they had allegedly bought the girl, identified as Srey Neang, claiming she was to be their daughter.

Another woman, Thoeng Reth, 62, was charged with child trafficking through adoption for selling the girl to the couple for $400 in 2008. Her case was also heard yesterday.

Upon entering the courtroom and seeing Ms Nary, the girl was inconsolable for several minutes. During an emotional trial, the girl described the tortures she had endured over nearly two years as the couple’s servant.

“Mom ordered me to clean the floor, wash the dishes and cook. When I did not do it very well, mom beat me with clothes hangers and brooms and used pliers to pinch my vagina,” she told the court.

“She tortured me by hanging me up by the legs because I did not follow her advice. When I was showered, she used to scrub my cuts clean till they were bleeding. Then she put medicine on them.”

While the child spoke, Mr Savoeun appeared agitated. Ms Nary, who was a schoolteacher, was earlier ejected from the courtroom for whispering in her husband’s as he was questioned on the stand.

“Papa was very gentle, but mom was very nasty. When she ordered him to do something, he had to do it because in the house, mom was the master,” the girl told the court.

Mr Savoeun, however, denied any knowledge of the girl’s torture.

“I never paid attention to the girl. I never knew that my wife tortured the girl…. Once I saw my wife beat the girl with hangers and I advised her not to beat the girl and only educate her. But my wife did not listen,” he said.

Ms Nary, meanwhile, denied all charges, saying that she did not intend to buy the girl in the first place, that she’d given the money to Ms Reth as an act of charity, and that the girl was not a servant.

“I adopted her as a daughter, I never used her as a maid.”

Echoing statements given to the police in October, Ms Nary contended the beatings were not torture and were only a means to keep a difficult child in line.

“I had no intention to torture her but the girl was very adamant. I had eagerly educated her, but she still disobeyed my words,” she said.

A verdict is expected on Feb 19.


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