A young woman sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 on charges of having sex with a minor – a case rights groups said was a blatant example of homophobia – was acquitted by the Appeal Court yesterday.
The presiding judge, Pak Chansambo, said the court had dropped the charges against Phlong Srey Rann, now 21, and ordered her immediate release.
“Based on the hearing, there is a lack of evidence to show Phlong Srey Rann had committed the offence as accused. Therefore, the Court of Appeal overturned the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision from 2011,” he said.
Srey Rann was found guilty of having sex with a minor in November 2011.
She has maintained that the teenager in question, a 14-year-old girl who she worked with in a garment factory, was in fact her girlfriend, and said the family falsified identification documents because they were unhappy with their same-sex relationship.
Srey Rann’s mother, Som Srey Rath, said she was overjoyed by the acquittal.
“I cried in the Appeal Court when the judge dropped the charges and said my daughter was innocent,” she said.
An only child, Srey Rann was a major financial support for the family and, after her imprisonment, they found it difficult to make ends meet, Srey Rath said.
Her husband, Plong Sokha, said the paperwork was still being processed and that his daughter would likely be released today.
“I saw my wife ill when my daughter went to prison. I think that for over one year it looked like a dark sky for my small family, but now... it looks like a light day for a new year,” he said.
Srey Rann’s lawyer, Mao Tan Eam, explained that the verdict was overturned because there was insufficient proof that the teenager was in fact under-age.
A copy of the alleged birth certificate and family book provided to the Post last year by the factory in which the pair were employed set the teenager’s age as 19 at the time of Srey Rann’s arrest.
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Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org