Kruoch Sam Oeun (centre) is escorted into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Photograph: Lieng Sarith/Phnom Penh Post
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday began to hear the trial of five family members who stand accused of illegally detaining a fortune-teller and his four disciples, allegedly torturing them and forcing them to use drugs while attempting to press them into service as drug dealers.
According to presiding judge Douch Kimsorn, Kruoch Sam Oeun, 55; his wife Chea Thorn, 50; his son Kruoch Bunthoeun, 32; his daughter Kruoch Samouen; and his son-in-law Cheng Chanthy, 30, were arrested last July in Por Sen Chey district’s Chom Chao commune on charges of illegal detention with torture, forcing a victim to use drugs and conspiracy.
Fortune-teller Khi Pheari, 29, one of the alleged victims, said that they were at the suspects’ home for a ceremony when they were taken to the third floor by the defendants, where he saw Chanty and another man named Peo using unspecified drugs.
When Pheari asked to leave, he said, Chanty allegedly replied: “You can’t go anywhere. Who said you could go out?”
“They forced me and my sister to use drugs, and I had to do it or I’d be hit,” he said. “They locked me up one day and one night, and hit me on my head, kicked my body and tried to force me to work for them [selling drugs].”
“I did not see them rape my sister, but she told me she was raped,” Pheari continued, going on to ask for $10,000 in damages.
Chanthy and his fellow defendants denied the charges, saying it was Peo, who allegedly fled, that was responsible for the crimes.
Chanty and Sam Oeun testified that they knew Pheari through Peo, and that the seer had charged them $1,101 – which Pheari denied – for a ceremony meant to dispel bad luck.
When Pheari and his disciples came to their home for a follow-up ceremony, they added, Peo showed up, claiming Pheari was a fraud, and took the reins.
“Peo told me not to worry and he would claim money back from the seer,” Sam Oeun said. “I did not hit, detain or force him to use drugs.”
Testimony in the case will continue on March 21.