First Child Rape-Murder of the Year Reported
By and | February 21, 2013

A 10-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death in the dining hall of a Buddhist pagoda in Prey Veng province on Monday, marking the first child rape-murder to be reported so far this year.

Last year, at least 10 girls young­er than 18 years old were raped and murdered throughout the country. The situation was little different in 2011; local rights group Adhoc recorded 13 cases of children raped and then killed by their attackers.

Recent rape-murders in India and South Africa have inspired massive protests and sparked government responses, while the almost monthly rape-murder toll in Cambodia in recent years has warranted little more than a few short stories in the media.

“I think there is a situation where people have become desensitized to the reality,” said David Harding, international training coordinator for the Cambodia-based NGO Friends International.

In a society such as Cambodia, where violent crime and social injustice are commonplace, the rape-murder of children struggles to stand out, Mr. Harding said.

“Also, I think it’s a situation where these kinds of abuses to­wards children—these horrible abus­es against children—get mixed up with very complex and very serious issues and abuses that people face every day in Cambodia.”

And unlike the reaction of the media in India and South Africa, where single cases of rape-murders of young women were on the front pages of newspapers for days following the crimes, Cambodia’s media fail to focus on violence against children and women, Mr. Harding said.

“Within media, the reports of these kinds of horrific crimes are tucked away and often don’t become front-page news,” he added.

Political analyst Chea Vannath agreed that in a society that still suffers from a myriad of social ills, the rape and murder of children struggles to rise above the fray.

“The poverty, the violence, the weak institutions, the weak implementation of the law all contribute to the acceptance of the situation,” she said.

In the absence of any public outcry against the perpetrators of violence against women and children, the country’s courts and law enforcement officials have failed to stamp out the scourge of child rape in Cambodia, according to children’s and women’s rights advocates.

Although the 17-year-old who was arrested for allegedly raping and killing 10-year-old Vorn Srey Leu in the Prey Veng pagoda on Monday night has confessed to his crime, the prosecution of such crimes is still rare, said Chin Chanveasna, executive director of End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia, a network of child protection NGOs.

“We don’t think that we need to change the law, because the law pro­vides enough protection. We need to improve law enforcement,” he said, noting that rape victims of­ten face delays in prosecution and other complications in filing com­plaints against perpetrators.

Pok Panha Vichet, executive director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, echoed Mr. Chanveasna’s sentiment, saying that the lack of faith in law en­forcement and ineffectiveness of the courts was a key factor in the country’s inability to significantly reduce rape and violent crime against minors.

“One contributing factor [to the child rape problem] is impunity,” Ms. Panha Vichet said, explaining that oftentimes, perpetrators of rape are never put in jail, either because the victim is scared of the societal repercussions of ex­posing herself as a rape victim in court or because the victim accepts out-of-court settlements.

“When you talk about the legal process, which is based on evidence, that’s also a challenge. You have to ask local authorities to certify who the perpetrator is and prove how he has done such and such, and sometimes local authorities are scared to do this be­cause they think it is not their affair,” she added.

In order to spread awareness of women’s rights and legal protection against rape, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has worked with the Interior Ministry and partner NGOs to launch public education campaigns, according to Hor Malin, undersecretary of state at the ministry.

The fact that more rape cases are being reported now, compared to past years, is evidence that the campaigns are working, she maintained.

According to Mr. Harding of Friends International, the child rape problem persists because of impunity.

“Essentially, these situations happen because people feel they can get away with them,” he said.

“When we are talking about violence against children, it’s as good a reason as any to begin strengthening these legal systems.”

© 2013, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.


The cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday accepted a petition from villagers from Kratie province’s Snuol district who are requesting intervention in a land dispute with a plantation owner.

Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Wednesday lauded the country’s controversial sugar industry and the jobs it has created, saying that companies operating in the sector need to be defended against the widespread criticism they have been receiving.

As the international community on Wednesday lauded the opposition CNRP’s agreement with the ruling CPP to take its seats in the National Assembly, some of the opposition’s most outspoken allies talked of treachery from a party that months ago was demanding a re-election or the resignation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In the aftermath of the covenant struck between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP President Sam Rainsy on Tuesday, the opposition was fast to frame the deal as a grudging and rare concession from an authoritarian party deeply protective of its power.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was banned from running in last year’s national election, will now be sworn in as one of the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers, with Kompong Cham province lawmaker-elect Kuoy Bunroeun standing down to become an opposition member on the new bipartisan electoral commission.

The Cambodia Daily | All the News Without Fear or Favor | The Daily Newspaper of Record Since 1993