A Kampot province woman has said she lost her 3-month-old fetus because of rough treatment at the hands of local police, though authorities blame the miscarriage on her own drunken behavior.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee has taken on the case of Tep Neang, 37, filing a complaint with the provincial prosecutor against Kompong Chamrong commune’s deputy police chief, Yann Thorn, for torture, one of its officials said Sunday.
Meanwhile, police said they are waiting for the court to issue an arrest warrant or summons for Tep Neang, whom they have accused of injuring her neighbor.
According to police and officials with rights groups Adhoc and Licadho, both members of CHRACO, the incident began Aug 18 with an argument between Tep Neang and her neighbor over their shared property boundary. The two women’s dispute escalated into a brawl.
Afterward, Tep Neang went to the hospital to make sure the scrap had not interfered with her pregnancy, said Try Chhoun, Adhoc’s director for Kampot province.
Meanwhile, the neighbor complained to the commune police.
Try Chhoun said Yann Thorn and another officer picked up Tep Neang that afternoon, after a doctor had sent her home with assurances that she was fine.
“When the police came, they hauled her into a horse cart. After the cart had driven about 100 meters, she jumped off,” Try Chhoun said.
The police grabbed her again, cuffing her wrists and ankles. Back in the bed of the cart, two removable wooden benches were put across her abdomen, barring her in, Try Chhoun said.
“It was a small case. The police should not have handcuffed and detained her,” Try Chhoun said. “What we understand is that the police were very biased toward the neighbor.”
The horse cart carried her down six jarring kilometers of bad road to the Kampot district police headquarters, where one of Tep Neang’s ankles was chained to a column in the office, Try Chhoun and police said.
Then blood flowed from between Tep Neang’s legs as she rolled around on the floor, screaming in agony. She told police she was three-months pregnant and having a miscarriage, Try Chhoun said.
Police told her she was only menstruating, then told her to change clothes, as the ones she wore were stained with too much blood, Try Chhoun said.
Tep Neang spent the night there, chained and unfed, the rights worker added.
Kampot district police chief Sam Ouk gave a different account Sunday. He said Tep Neang was drunk when police arrived at her home. He said she was cuffed only after she tried to escape, biting the cart driver during the attempt.
Sam Ouk said Tep Neang was unconscious upon arriving at the district police headquarters. When she awoke, she refused food.
Sam Ouk said he had asked Tep Neang to change clothes but denied seeing blood till the next morning, when district police took her to provincial police headquarters.
There, provincial judicial police chief In Chiva recognized that the prisoner was pale and weak and ordered district police to check her into the hospital.
Instead, they took her back to their office and handed her over to her husband, who had been called back from a fishing trip.
Try Chhoun said Tep Neang then spent a week recovering in a hospital and did not report her case until Sept 6.
Speaking individually by telephone Sunday, In Chiva and Sam Ouk blamed Tep Neang for her miscarriage.
In Chiva said he had spoken to the arresting officers on Sunday.
“They told me they arrested the woman because she had beaten her neighbor unconscious and was drunk,” he said. “She tortured herself by jumping from the horse cart.”
Human rights officials denied that the neighbor had been seriously harmed in the scrap.
“The police were very cruel. Other villagers who saw the police brutality have declined to serve as witnesses because they are very afraid of the commune police,” Try Chhoun said.
(Additional reporting by Porter Barron)