Two men were charged in two provinces this week for allegedly raping 7-year-old girls, two more cases of a crime that seems to in-creasingly target the country’s children, according to officials and human rights workers.
Prum Pensovann, 62, of Preah Sihanouk province, was charged Wednesday by the Provincial Court and is awaiting trial in the provincial prison for the alleged rape of his neighbor’s child, said Be Sivanna, provincial anti-trafficking police chief.
The suspect allegedly convinced the 7-year-old girl from Stung Hav district’s Phum Pi village to get on his motorcycle and follow him to the nearby O’Tres lake for a bath Sunday evening. He took her into deep waters where she could not escape and had to hold on to him not to drown, Be Sivanna said.
A doctor confirmed the rape, in which the 7-year-old was severely injured, he said.
Prum Pensovann denies committing the crime, but villagers saw him in the lake with the girl and alerted the child’s mother, Be Si-vanna said. The suspect was arrested two hours later, he said by telephone Wednesday.
Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court charged Yoeun Voeun, 30, on Monday with the alleged rape of a relative, said Preah Netr Preah district police chief Theam Thin. He was sent to pretrial detention.
Yoeun Voeun is suspected of raping the 7-year-old girl on the bank of a lake in Kompong Kra-saing village, Phnom Leap commune, just 50 meters from the girl’s home, Theam Thin said.
The mother had briefly gone to a neighbor’s house, but returned quickly because her daughter is epileptic and she didn’t like to leave the girl alone, Theam Thin said, adding that she found her daughter crying by the lake with visible signs that she had been raped.
“I think that victims of rape are becoming younger because suspects think that small girls are easily tricked into being raped,” he added.
Local rights group Adhoc re-ceived 419 rape complaints in 2008, of which two-thirds involved mi-nors, said Lim Mony, chief of the group’s women’s section. In 2007, 58 percent of 523 rapes reported to Adhoc were attacks on minors. Most of the raped minors were 8 or 9 years old, she added.
Local rights group Licadho is making similar observations re-garding child rape. The group handled 146 child rape cases last year and 200 in 2007, which meant that children represented two-thirds of all rape victims for those years, co-ordinator Sao Chanhorm said.
No organization has figures for 2009 yet, but since Jan 1 The Cam-bodia Daily has reported on 17 cases, which involved a total of 37 child victims.
Aggravating the trauma of child rape victims is that many families agree to marry off the victims to their rapists, Sao Chanhorm said.
“But immunity [from prosecution] is still the key issue for the existence of rape,” she added.
It is common practice for police to actively broker and encourage financial payment deals between a victim’s family and the suspect, said Ros Sopheap, the executive director of Cambodia Gender Dev-elopment, in an interview.
Court cases, she said, can be long, expensive and frustrating.
The prevailing situation emboldens rapists, who know they’re likely to receive no or little punishment for their crime, she explained.
“Right now, families prefer to get compensation rather than take the case through the court process,” she said. “They don’t want people…to know their daughter was raped.”
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)