Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced schoolteacher Meas Neary, 41, and her husband Va Savoeun, 62, to a combined total of 30 years in prison for torturing an 11-year-old girl who was under their ward.
A third party in the case, 62-year-old Thoeng Reth, was sentenced to five years in prison for child trafficking.
“This is a very cruel case,” Judge Chan Madina said before announcing the sentencing. “The victim had many injuries on her head, body and especially vagina, where there were 15 points of torture.”
The three were arrested last October after a neighbor reported the severely abused child. When police and rights workers examined the girl, they discovered physical evidence of abuse that often verged on torture. During last month’s hearing, the child testified to being beaten with clothes hangers, hung from her feet and having had skin ripped from her vagina with pliers.
Ms Nary, the primary offender, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for causing serious injury. After the verdict was announced, Ms Nary called it “unjust” echoing a claim she has made repeatedly since her arrest in October.
“I did not badly beat her, I just beat her a little in order to educate her,” she said.
Defense attorney Hak Kheng Nguon, offered a similar statement after Friday’s sentencing.
“I cannot accept the court’s [decision]…. Ms Nary did beat the child but only to educate her because the child disobeyed her,” he said, adding that the punishment was overly harsh.
Few held Mr Kheng Nguon’s position.
“This is a very serious case with extreme violence,” said Sue Taylor, the child’s psychosocial counselor at Hagar International. “The court decided on a hard sentence that is suited to the crime.”
Chan Soveth, senior monitor at Adhoc, called the sentencing both fitting to the crime and a strong deterrent to others who may think such abuse is acceptable.
“This sentencing tells all people they cannot act like this,” he said.