Three Men Tried on Kidnapping Charges in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried three men on kidnapping and illegal confinement charges after they allegedly abducted a 5-year-old boy and attempted to ransom him for $4,000 last year.

Mam Sophoan, 20, Phat Varak, 19, and Kim Hourn, 25, were arrested in November 2009 in Kratie province’s Snoul district, where they were found with the younger brother of Mr Sophoan’s former girlfriend. Police said that Mr Sophoan was angry with the woman for rejecting him.

In court, Mr Sophoan denied having kidnapped the boy, and explained that he had previously taken his former girlfriend’s sibling on outings and this time decided to take him out of the city.

“I did not kidnap and illegally detain the boy. I just brought him to visit my homeland,” he said.

But according to statements read aloud in court, both Mr Varak and Mr Hourn confessed to police that Mr Sophoan called the boy’s father, who agreed to exchange the boy for $4,000 in Kompong Cham. The two men said that, despite their awareness of the crime, they did not participate.

Keo Vuthy, the boy’s father, said that he had allowed Mr Sophoan to take his son to the Sorya Shopping Center in Phnom Penh on Nov 4, 2009, according to a statement read in court.

“Sophoan called me and demanded $4,000 in exchange for my son,” he said. “I felt fear about my son’s security.”

Mr Vuthy said he agreed to pay, but instead informed police, who tracked down the trio of men and the boy.

Mr Varak testified in court that he was unaware of any kidnapping and only confessed because he was afraid of the police, who he claimed beat him.

Mr Hourn also denied knowing that the boy’s trip to Kratie was anything more than a holiday.

Deputy prosecutor Chet Khmera said the confessions, along with the boy’s presence in Kratie, were enough proof for a conviction.

“They really committed the case as charged,” he said.

Presiding judge Duch Kimsan said he would hand down the verdict Dec 8.


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