Three people were gang raped in separate incidents in Battambang and Kratie provinces in the past two weeks, marking at least the third and fourth reported gang rapes in April alone, police and court officials said yesterday.
Battambang Provincial Court last week charged seven men with rape of a minor, robbery and conspiracy after they allegedly gang raped two 14-year-old girls who had gone to a local pagoda in Battambang town for pre-Khmer New Year festivities, according to prosecutor Nuon San.
Run Samnang, 19, and Lim Sany, 21, were arrested last week and are currently in provisional detention while police search for the other five suspects.
“We have the identity of two of the five escaped suspects,” said Koy Heang, the provincial anti-human trafficking police chief. “I’ve deployed my men to hunt for them and we’ll arrest them.”
According to Mr Heang, police found six condoms at the scene of the crime. They believe that all seven suspects were drunk, and that four men raped the girls while the others stood watch and helped rob the victims of 60,000 riel, or about $15, and all of their jewelry.
In a separate incident, in Kratie’s Prek Prasap district, one man was arrested last week for his part in the gang rape of a 21-year-old woman, while three other suspects remain at large.
Suor Kimsreang, 23, was in custody after allegedly being caught in the act of raping the victim, while Bean Sothi, 17, Born They, 18, and Chon Nga, 18, fled the scene of the crime, according to district police chief Sum Sokhim.
“The victim said that the four men raped her,” said Mr Sokhim. “We got there as the last man was raping the girl after we got a call from a villager who heard her shouting for help.”
Five men in Banteay Meanchey were also charged with gang raping a 26-year-old woman in a Poipet City guesthouse last week. In February, four men abducted and raped a 17-year-old girl in Kompong Speu.
A major report issued in March by rights group Amnesty International said that rape is on the rise in Cambodia, powered by rampant impunity and government indifference.
Although Amnesty did not focus specifically on gang rape, researcher Brittis Edman interviewed a number of gang rape survivors while compiling the report.
“In none of these cases had the perpetrator brought to justice,” she wrote in an e-mail yesterday. “As with other cases of rape, such impunity had dire consequences both for the victim and society at large: It signals that rape is acceptable.”
Accurate statistics on gang rape- and rape in general- are scant, Ms Edman added.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said yesterday he had no numbers on gang rape at hand, although he believed the government was keeping track. Mr Chantharith referred queries to national anti-human trafficking police who could not be reached.
But by the count of the human rights organization Licadho, 11 children and 8 adult women were raped by groups of men in 2009. Pung Chhiv Kek, the group’s founder and president, said she suspected the true number was even higher since women often do not report gang rapes out of shame or intimidation.
Pornography, drugs and alcohol tend to be the most immediate motivation for gang rape, Ms Kek said, but a more important factor in explaining the phenomenon is a culture of impunity that allows men to buy their victims’ silence and evade punishment for sexual violence.
“Rape is a crime and a crime should be punished,” she said.
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, former Minister of Women’s Affairs, agreed that the proliferation of gang rape was due in part to impunity, which she called “a passport for assault, sexual assault and gang rape.”
But she said that Cambodian society as a whole needed to reassess its attitudes toward women.
“Rape is a severe violation of the rights of women and their bodies but gang rape multiplies that form of violation by 10, by 100 times more,” Ms Sochua said. “Of course the government is showing a lack of commitment and of course the culture of impunity adds to it, but I think we also have to appeal to society to be responsible and say, ‘This isn’t just something you can read in the paper and then put the paper down and forget about it.'”