Two months after the rape of a 19-year-old in a Phnom Penh karaoke club, the Interior Ministry frankly admitted that the crime was committed by one of its police officers, according to a letter from the Ministry to the Council of Ministers.
“On Oct 30, 2009, at 2:10 pm Mr Uong Dara committed a violation of national police rules by drinking alcohol and raping the victim,” reads the Jan 4 letter signed by Secretary of State Prum Sokha, a copy of which was obtained yesterday.
On Oct 31, Mr Dara, 43, a Meanchey district policeman, was detained by police for allegedly raping the victim at a Prek Pra commune karaoke parlor, while security guard Chan Narith, 50, was detained for allegedly holding the victim down during the assault.
Shortly after, confusion erupted over the whereabouts of the two suspects, as police said they had sent the two men to the municipal court while the court claimed the suspects had never arrived.
According to the Interior Ministry letter about the case, the victim withdrew her complaint against the two men after accepting $250 in compensation.
The letter goes on to state that Mr Dara was stripped of his rank and position on Dec 17, and notes that Meanchey district police have asked?? the court “to take legal action.”
Municipal court clerk Cham Long said yesterday that the court had kept the case open but needed municipal police chief Touch Naruth to deliver the defendant before it could proceed.
“We only received the document of Mr Uong Dara’s rape case but the offender has not been sent to court for hearing,” he said.
Mr Naruth could not be reached yesterday but he has on previous occasions insisted that he did in fact send both suspects to the court where they were released–a claim the court denies.
The police chief has also said that his officer should not be prosecuted because the victim was “not a virgin” and had accepted compensation.
Men Hengtith, Meanchey district deputy police chief, said yesterday that the whereabouts of Mr Dara and Mr Narith are unknown.
“Ung Dara did not show his face since his case happened at the karaoke room,” he said. “It is out of our hands after we sent his case to the municipal court.”
Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said there is no excuse for the court to not pursue the case.
Mr Dara’s dismissal “is not enough because according to the law the criminal offense has to be prosecuted,” he said. “In theory they should not stop…but in practice it is different.”
In practice, Mr Saray said, rapists often avoid prosecution by paying their victims not to complain. The police often broker the deals themselves, he added, especially when the suspect is one of their own.
In the 460 rape cases Adhoc recorded last year, Mr Saray said victims dropped the original complaints in return for money 66 times.
Without prosecution, this amounts to a culture of impunity, he said: “If there is only the money, we cannot reduce the number of rape cases.”