A teen whose head was reportedly held underwater by two men he allegedly stole coconuts from is far from an innocent kid, said hundreds of Prey Veng province villagers – including his mother – petitioning for the alleged assailants’ release.
The 14-year-old victim’s mother, Chhorn Suth, 45, of Pea Reang district’s Kampong Popil commune, yesterday said she was one of the 570 signatories of a document calling for the release of brothers Heng Dane, 34, and Heng Vanny, 28. The letter was submitted to Kampong Popil’s commune chief.
“This is not the first time he stole coconuts,” Suth said of her son, adding that he had stolen from Dane and Vanny’s family before. “Family of the suspects have told me that if he wasn’t my son, they would kill him.”
Prey Veng provincial police arrested Dane and Vanny on Friday, a day after police say the siblings posted photos of themselves repeatedly dunking the victim’s head in a concrete water basin while his hands were tied behind his back.
The suspects were allegedly acting in retribution after catching the teen stealing four coconuts out of their tree, Kampong Popil commune chief Ouch Soy said.
Both men were arrested and charged with torture and acts of cruelty, Pea Reang district police chief Um Vanna said.
They are being held at the provincial prison and could face between 10 and 20 years in prison if convicted.
Thursday’s alleged attempted theft was far from the first such incident involving the victim, Soy said yesterday.
Police had received complaints in the past about thefts that villagers said the teen committed, and had warned him to stop stealing.
“I signed the petition on behalf of the authorities,” Soy said. “But I cannot promise whether any action will be taken because of it.”
Despite calls for leniency, the case must be investigated according to the law, Vanna explained.
“It is the villagers’ right to ask for the suspects’ release,” Vanna said. “But we cannot, we must follow the law.”