Military police in Preah Sihanouk province arrested a provincial police officer accused of raping a mentally disabled 11-year-old girl, but the provincial court released him yesterday citing a lack of evidence, authorities said.
The victim told her father that his friend, police officer Kong Sophat, had raped her, prompting the officer’s arrest in Preah Sihanouk City on Monday, provincial military police said.
Provincial court prosecutor Bou Bunhang said yesterday that a medical examination determined that the girl had been raped, but that it had not happened recently.
“It is not a new [wound]. We don’t know when that took place and who she did it with,” he said. He said that authorities would continue to investigate the case.
“I released him since no guilt was found. We cannot just believe this kid. It depends on the result of the medical check,” he said.
Keo Sophal, deputy provincial military police chief, said the girl could not recall when the rape occurred, but said she claimed the officer raped her when she visited his house alone.
“I arrested him due to the complaint that he raped the girl. The arrest warrant is about the rape,” he said, adding that allegations like these affect the reputation of police.
“Whoever you are, regardless of being police or anyone, if you commit the wrong deed, you have to face the law,” he said prior to Mr Sophat’s release by the court yesterday afternoon. He could not be reached after the release.
Chor Heng, the provincial police chief, confirmed Mr Sophat was a provincial police officer, but he declined to discuss the case.
“I am not in charge of this case, but the military police is,” he said.
Cheap Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said Adhoc would monitor the case, help the victim’s family and provide them with a lawyer.
“The release is suspicious, but we cannot do anything. Only the lawyer has the right to look into the case and talk to the prosecutors,” she said, adding that the lawyer will begin working on the case today.
The victim’s father said Mr Sophat was a friend of his who lived nearby in Preah Sihanouk City’s Bei commune. Prior to the release yesterday, he expressed concern that Mr Sophat’s status as a police officer would help him avoid prosecution, adding that the man’s family had already contacted him about compensating him for the incident.
“I don’t want compensation. I want him to face the law,” he said.
Reached after Mr Sophat’s release, the father said he would continue pursuing the case with the help of NGOs.
He said he learned of the rape on Monday from a coffee vendor whom his daughter confided in.
“I asked [my daughter], and she said the same thing—that Mr Sophat penetrated her in his bathroom,” he said.
He said the girl could not remember when the rape occurred.