A 16-year-old boy was charged on Sunday for raping three girls on multiple occasions at a state-run orphanage in Pailin province, officials said.
The teenager was arrested on Friday after police received a complaint from the provincial social affairs department, which was tipped off by staff at the orphanage, said Chhorm Vanthy, chief of the provincial police’s serious crimes bureau.
Following his arrest, the teenager admitted to raping three girls— aged 6, 7 and 12—since March, and raping the two younger victims on multiple occasions, the police chief said.
“The suspect raped them two times each and indecently assaulted them five times each,” Mr. Vanthy said, adding that he could not remember the name of the orphanage.
According to a police report signed by Mr. Vanthy, the teenager threatened to beat his victims if they mentioned the abuse to anyone.
The case only came to light after one of the girls informed a friend who then told staff at the orphanage, he said, adding that the alarm was then raised with the provincial social affairs department.
“The case broke after one of the girls told her friends one-on-one and then the orphanage officials knew,” Mr. Vanthy said.
“He has already confessed to raping the girls. The boy had the opportunity to rape the girls because they relax together and orphanage officials could not care for them at all times,” Mr. Vanthy said, adding that the boy was sent to the provincial court over the weekend.
Sak Samoeun, director of the provincial social affairs department, confirmed that his agency contacted police after receiving the tip-off from a staff member at the state-run facility.
“He looked like a normal teenage boy. I don’t know exactly why he did that,” Mr. Samoeun said.
Asked how the abuse could have taken place for months without the staff noticing, Mr. Samoeun laid the blame solely with the teenager.
“This is his bad personal behavior. He took the opportunity by himself. We just knew when the case broke,” he said, adding that the orphanage cares for 50 to 60 children aged between one month and 18 years old.
Mr. Samoeun hung up on a reporter when asked to name the orphanage.
Thol Kimhoeng, a spokesman for the provincial court’s prosecutors, said the court laid charges against the suspect on Sunday after two days of questioning.
“The court charged him with rape with aggravating circumstances, and the judge already sent him to pretrial detention at the provincial prison since 11 a.m.,” Mr. Kinghoeng said, confirming that there were three victims.
The attacks come amid a government review of Cambodia’s sprawling orphanage system, which began in December and requires all child care institutions to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs and adhere to a set of minimum standards or risk closure.
The issue of sexual violence within child care institutions has been highlighted by a number of recent scandals, including at least three cases in the past two years in which orphanage directors or their spouses were charged with raping or sexually abusing children in their care.
Khoem Vando, deputy director of field operations at anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said orphanage staff must do their utmost to spot potential grooming within their institutions.
“In orphanages, there should be clear roles and procedures for such problems, because before something happened there must be some sort of prior grooming,” Mr. Vando said.
“There must be a clear child protection policy and a clear child protection officer there to be in charge of that.”
(Additional reporting by George Wright)