12-Year-Old Rape Victim Afraid of Talking to Police, NGOs

Siem Reap district, Siem Reap Province – Sitting on a bed in her home-her head shaved by her shame–ridden mother-the 12-year-old girl resisted all questions about the rape she allegedly endured at the hands of three policemen. “I already told you what happened to me,” she said Thursday to Yin Hak Ley, an investigator with local rights group Licadho, as she turned her back on a reporter.

“Now, I forget everything,” she said softly.

Shortly after, the girl stood up and, without saying a word, left for a neighbor’s house in Kok Chak commune.

Since being raped at a Kok Chak commune police post and in the nearby jungle over a three-day period in mid-November, the girl is afraid to speak with people she does not know, Yin Hak Ley said.

Police and rights workers have accused commune police officers Neang Sam Simeth, 25, and Kong Sokun, 21, and provincial intervention police officer Lach Vichheka, 19, of raping the young runaway over three days. The suspects reportedly fled the area last month.

The girl’s mother said she now fears retaliation from local authorities after complaining to the provincial court.

“I was called two times with offers of $500 to withdraw the complaint, but I told the police that I already filed the complaints,” the 43-year-old said in an interview.

Kong Pro Loeung, Prasat Bakong district deputy governor and father of suspect Kong Sokun, confirmed last month that his son was guilty of rape. He added that he has tried to buy his son’s way out of a trial by offering the girl’s mother $500.

The mother now fears that local officials will remove her family from the small, ramshackle home from which she has been selling snacks and cigarettes for the last five years.

Without continuing NGO support, she said she would have to withdraw the complaints.

“I am just an ordinary person who has no power to deal with the police,” she said.

But even more pervasive than the fear is a deep sense of disgrace. “I feel ashamed if I tell the villagers that my daughter was raped,” she said.

She was furious with her daughter when she returned home and told her about what had happened. “I beat my daughter, warning her not to go away from home again,” she said.

The girl has since run away from home again, spending five days at a distant relative’s home before finally returning Jan 3.

“She wants to go away from her family…because she is afraid of answering [to] the police and the court,” said the girl’s 21-year-old sister.

She added that her sister suffers from mental difficulties, and her memory is impaired because of a head injury she sustained in a motorcycle accident when she was 3 years old.

Licadho has offered to take the girl to Phnom Penh to live in a vocational training center for both her safety and as a chance to renew her life, Yin Hak Ley said. But the girl has refused.

No warrants have so far been issued for the arrest of the three officers.

On Sunday, Toch Sopeakdey, provincial deputy prosecutor, said he will send the case to an investigating judge Tuesday. The investigating judge will then determine whether warrants should be issued, he added.

Prior to the rape, the girl was taken in by police after running away from home.

“She smoked cigarettes and watched TV,” recalled Pot Samben, an officer at the post who has been questioned by the court about the case and has denied any knowledge of the rape.

The girl slept for at least one night on a desk at the post, he said. No one has threatened the girl or her family in the wake of the rape allegations, he added.

Seated outside the small, spartan room where the alleged rape mostly occurred, commune police officer Ieng Makara said he was not present during the attacks, but had a hard time believing that his colleagues are innocent.

“If they did not do it, why did they escape?” he said.

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