Police in Banteay Meanchey have arrested a 29-year-old man who brutally killed his 1-year-old cousin and seriously injured the baby’s grandmother.
Soun Seng, who police said suffers from an undefined mental illness, attacked 54-year-old Sreb San with a cleaver at around 6 p.m. on Sunday in Preah Netr Preah district’s Chop Vary commune while she was holding her 1-year-old grandson. Ms. San was the child’s guardian because his parents are migrant workers in Thailand.
“The suspect climbed up the stairs into the house, chopped the grandmother with his cleaver and then he grabbed the baby boy and brought the cleaver down on his head once. Then he grabbed the baby by both legs and smashed him against a pillar,” said deputy district police chief Keo Bunyoeun.
Mr. Seng then turned back on the grandmother, beating her. The woman’s screams went unheard by neighbors, who were out working in the rice fields at the time of the attack, according to Mr. Bunyouen. The suspect then fell into what police described as a catatonic state, allowing the grandmother to escape and seek help.
Ms. San was taken to the hospital to be treated for head injuries and remains in stable condition.
“There was no dispute or reason for revenge with anybody in the family. The only reason is that his mental illness was worsening,” Mr. Bunyoeun said.
Mr. Seng was taken into custody but will be sent to the provincial referral hospital, where his mental health will be assessed, Mr. Bunyoeun said.
The suspect’s mother, 50-year-old Srep Ser, said that her son had suffered from mental problems for more than nine years and was taking medicine prescribed by the local health center.
However Chida Kim, a psychologist with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, said there was a lack of adequate mental health care in the provinces.
“[Small clinics and health centers] don’t know what the diseases are, because they have no experience. They are not specialists and just give any medicine,” Ms. Kim said.
Many people never receive treatment for mental health issues, and often relatives of the mentally ill, or the police in criminal cases, can only describe the person as “crazy,” she added.