Members of a wealthy family accused of torturing and holding captive a girl, now 18, for eight years and her brother, 12, for two years vehemently denied the charges to reporters at their Tuol Kok villa Wednesday as the boy appeared for questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Soeung Hoeung, the patriarch of the family, and his wife, Taing Sim Rong, said the siblings had worked for them for 10 years and eight years, respectively, and were both treated as members of the family. Mr. Hoeung accused an estranged employee of being behind the allegations.
“The mother took them here and asked us to look after her and we agreed because we wanted to help them because they are poor,” Ms. Sim Rong said, adding that they had paid the siblings’ mother $200 every three to four months.
The family, who are accused of subjecting the siblings to sustained physical and mental abuse, produced photos of the alleged victims with them on family holidays and videos of birthday celebrations that they plan to use as evidence if summoned to the court.
Ms. Sim Rong said she believed Vai Voeun, the family’s former driver, was behind the accusations. She said he held a grudge after being fired. “He is trying to get revenge and telling [the siblings] that they will get compensation if they accuse,” she said.
Mr. Voeun, who worked for the family sporadically between 2000 and 2014, rejected the claims, saying he warned the family against using violence toward the children.
“Why would I organize this? I told them, if you don’t stop using violence, he will run away. I will be a witness in court if they request,” Mr. Voeun said Wednesday.
Police raided the family home on July 29 after the girl’s mother told police her daughter feared for her life. The younger brother had fled the house the day before.
Ms. Sim Rong said the family was genuinely concerned for the boy’s safety when he disappeared.
“We asked the boy to go out and buy us some alcohol and he never returned. Everybody was worried about his security,” she said, as her husband produced a document filed at the local police station after the boy went missing.
The family’s bodyguard, Yim Bunthoeun, is the only person to face charges in the case so far. The family says the charges against him—using intentional violence, exploiting child labor, illegal human detention and using an illegal weapon—are false.
The 12-year-old reaffirmed the allegations of abuse under questioning at court Wednesday, as his sister did on Monday.