The Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Sunday charged a wheelchair-bound retired Royal Cambodian Armed Forces colonel with raping three minors in Poipet City between 2008 and 2012, police officials and NGO representatives said Monday.
Colonel Khuon Vanna was arrested Thursday on allegations that he had been abusing minors in Poipet City. Police said they had received initial reports of abuse in 2009 but at the time there was not enough evidence to pursue charges against him.
“The provincial court on Sunday charged him with the rape of three minor girls aged 9 to 13, and the court has decided to hold him in pretrial detention in the provincial prison,” provincial deputy police chief Sith Luos said, adding that police had been investigating the case since 2011.
“The police received complaints from the three victims’ parents in 2011 and after that, we investigated this case but we did not have enough evidence to arrest him until now,” Mr. Luos said.
The charge of rape under aggravated circumstances carries a sentence of seven to 15 years, said Samleang Seila, country director of anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, which has also been investigating the case with the International Justice Mission (IJM). While only three victims are involved in the case, Mr. Seila said that based on interviews with other alleged victims and their families, Mr. Vanna could have sexually abused or raped up to 60 minors.
After losing both his legs and vision in one eye from a mine explosion, Mr. Vanna established an organization that works with disabled veterans and provides rice to poor families living in Poipet City, Mr. Seila said.
“Most of the victims came form the same community or village and they were part of the group that was supported by the NGO activity,” he said.
Despite the long-standing allegations, police were handling this case delicately because of Mr. Vanna’s position and influence, Lisa Slavovsky, director of aftercare for IJM, said.
“Being in a place where he has a lot of influence in the community as he does, they really wanted to proceed with caution to make sure they were building a strong case against him,” she said.