A wealthy tycoon who stands accused of savagely abusing two teenage maids for nearly a decade has been anointed with the sought-after honourific of oknha.
In a royal decree dated July 26 and obtained yesterday, Veng Lyphytech – who, along with his wife, Ly Pov, faces charges of torture and child labour abuse – is granted the royal title.
Rights workers said ignorance of the case, which saw two 17-year-old girls allege years of abuse after fleeing the tycoon’s Tuol Kork mansion, could be the only reason the title would have been approved.
“I think that the reason the King signed the royal decree appointing him as an oknha is that maybe the King did not know about his background,” said Chan Soveth, senior investigator for Adhoc.
“He has made it in accordance with the request of the government official who has prepared it for him. The appointment [to oknha] of any rich person who is involved in child labour abuse or who has been accused of any crime … seriously affects the reputation of Cambodia,” Soveth said.
There are more than 200 oknhas in Cambodia – wealthy men and women who are expected to aim their largess toward the ruling party and its charity projects. Though the government is mum on the requirements of the title, analysts have said the honourific can be granted only after a $100,000-plus infrastructure donation.
Te Sam Ang, investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the case against Lyphytech and his wife was still being prepared for trial.
“The court has not yet completed its investigation into this case,” he said.
According to Major General Pol Pithey, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, the couple had been charged over the alleged abuse
“Our police are now seeking to arrest [Pov], so we can bring her in to face justice,” he said, adding Lyphytech had been granted bail.
In June, Dy Proem 51, a cousin to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was convicted in absentia and sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2011 and never arrested, was granted the title of oknha.