Two young girls who were enslaved and tortured while serving as maids for a Phnom Penh couple last year are now embroiled in a custody battle between their uncle and the residential institution where they currently live.
The girls have faced a long string of abuse. After neighbours confirmed that the pair, aged 8 and 15 years old, were often severely beaten by a couple who forced them into servitude, police removed the girls last June and sent them to the Social Affairs Department.
Investigators discovered the girls’ mother was missing and they had been left in the care of an alcoholic father who couldn’t afford to take care of them.
The social affairs officials forwarded the girls to residential facility KKEV.
But Seng Ratana, 28, claims his nieces are pleading to live with him and their grandmother in Svay Rieng. He says the organisation in Sen Sok district won’t let them go.
“I do not trust the KKEV organisation after [my nieces] told me when they came to join their father’s funeral late last month that they do not want to live there anymore,” he said.
He added that his nieces had twice tried to run away from the facility.
The shelter’s director said the uncle’s accusations are incorrect and that the girls have never run away and do not want to leave.
You Sopheak, a municipal social affairs officer, confirmed the shelter’s claim.
“The girls refused to live with their uncle. We respect the girls’ decision,” he said.