Men Tried Over Brutal Pursat Rape-Murders

Two men were tried at Pursat Provincial Court yesterday over the brutal rape and murder of two young girls in Pursat province’s Krakor district in January 2009, court officials said yesterday.

On Jan 6, 2009, missing cousins Nai Vinn, 11, and Phal Sophoeun, 14, were found hanging by rope in a tree near their home in Svay Sar commune’s Boeng Smuk village.

According to family members who found their bodies, the 11-year-old had bruises all over her body, both legs were broken and her eyes had been gouged out. The 14-year-old had a broken leg and her neck was also broken.

Sem Douch and Ham Sophea, who were 37 and 21 respectively when arrested in March 2009, appeared in court yesterday for their alleged roles in the crime, according to Judge In Bopha.

“We tried them based on the charges. The prosecutor charged them with rape and murder,” Judge Bopha said.

Judge Thoung Ol, the court’s president, said yesterday that the verdict would not be announced until Oct 26.

Observers who attended yesterday’s hearing, however, said they were unsure as to how the court could reach a verdict, given what they described as a lack of evidence.

Mary Katherine Olsen, a documentary filmmaker who produced “Total Brokenness,” a film about the culture of rape in Cambodia, said yesterday’s hearing called into question what investigators had done in the 18-months since the suspects were charged.

“The trial ended with open ends. There is no way the court would be able to reach a verdict,” she said.

Ms Olsen said that a summary report read by Judge Bopha at the start of the hearing, pointing to a lack of evidence in the case, differed significantly from the amount of evidence provided in a separate police report.

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said after the hearing that she questioned the competence of the officials who investigated the case.

“What precaution did they take in order to protect the evidence?” she wrote in an e-mail, adding that the government needed to invest resources into training police in forensic procedures.

 

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