Young Killer in Limbo as Social Affairs Department Fails to Help

The Kompong Speu social affairs department has yet to find an organization that can care for the 11-year-old girl accused of killing her 4-year-old neighbor over a pair of earrings, drawing attention to a lack of facilities and resources available to juvenile offenders.

The girl was arrested on Saturday after police discovered the body of Heak Kimchheng face down in a small canal in Samraong Tong district. The 11-year-old—who told police she killed the younger girl to steal her earrings—was charged with murder on Monday.

Because the girl is under the age of 14 and therefore cannot be formally prosecuted, the provincial social affairs department has been seeking an organization that can take the girl for supervision and counseling.

But the department—which says it does not have the resources to care for juvenile offenders—has so far failed to find a suitable organization, and the girl has gone into hiding with her mother.

“The ministry doesn’t have any centers to keep children who have had legal trouble,” Bou Sokhady, director of the Social Affairs Ministry’s youth rehabilitation department, said Wednesday.

Luy Lom, director of the Kompong Speu social affairs department, said he had yet to find a suitable organization to care for the girl, and would not risk placing her in the provincial orphanage.

“We cannot put the bad children with the good children,” Mr. Lom said. “It will spoil the good children.”

Op Vibol, child justice program manager at the NGO Legal Aid Cambodia, said the Social Affairs Ministry was too reliant on private organizations to care for troubled children.

“Because of a lack of resources, they contact NGOs for most of the work to rehabilitate,” he said. “But it’s hard to find places for young offenders, not only run by the social affairs department, but it’s also hard to find NGOs.”

“They think [juvenile offenders] are criminals and so they don’t want to take them in,” he said.

Nou Han, the 11-year-old girl’s mother, said Wednesday that she still hoped the department could find a place for her daughter to stay.

“My daughter will be educated and she can change herself,” she said.

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