A 15-year-old Kandal province boy was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Friday by the provincial court for the attempted rape of his 10-year-old neighbor, officials said Sunday.
He was arrested Aug 19 for allegedly trying to rape the girl while playing hide-and-seek in Sa’ang district’s Svay Pratel commune, according to presiding Judge Chey Sovann.
“I sentenced him for attempted rape according to Cambodian law,” the judge said, adding that the boy was also ordered to pay $1,250 in compensation to the victim.
“I made my ruling because of the medical examination by doctors. There is no law stating an exemption for underage offenders,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. If the law says 10 years, that’s it.”
Licadho child rights coordinator Thav Kimsan said that under the Untac law, children aged 13 and up are held accountable for their crimes and must serve at least the mandatory minimum.
However, he noted, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child mandates that underage offenders be rehabilitated in separate facilities rather than thrown in prison with adult convicts.
Licadho prison project supervisor Chin Lyda said that a 2005 survey of 18 prisons counted 398 juveniles among 7,907 prisoners—approximately five percent of the prison population. Forty of those children were staying with a convicted parent because they had nowhere else to go.
Chin Lyda added that young prisoners are vulnerable to disease and abuse in prison and may learn from bad examples set by hardened criminals, though some—but not all—prisons keep children and adults in separate cells.
Ly Buntheang, lawyer for the convicted boy, maintained that his client was innocent.
“The boy just played with the girl 10 meters from their homes. He did not rape her. He just touched her hands,” Ly Buntheang said. “There is no evidence and no witness.”
Ly Buntheang also alleged that the children’s families had had prior disputes, and that the girl’s mother had bruised her daughter’s thighs to manufacture false evidence for the prosecution. He further complained that the boy’s long detention prior to trial was unfair.
Chey Sovann defended the pre-trial detention, saying that the families did not have the necessary legal counsel to begin the trial earlier. “Without lawyers, we cannot try such a case,” he said.
Ly Buntheang said he plans to appeal the case as soon as possible.