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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Girl, 3, 'stolen' from family

Girl, 3, 'stolen' from family

A woman accused of stealing a three-year-old girl from her parents defended herself at court yesterday by stating she loved the child “like a daughter” and had not intended to sell her.

Chhoun Lin, 33, appeared at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday on charges of taking Cha Smin El from her mother, Mean Sarann, of Tuol Sangke commune, Russei Keo district, Phnom Penh.

The woman was found with the girl near the Thai border in Banteay Meachey province’s Malai district in November, prosecutor Phlong Sophal said, two months after she was allegedly taken.

Mean Sarann, the girl’s mother, said at court yesterday that she had been friends with Chhoun Lin. She said she had allowed her daughter to stay with Chhoun Lin overnight in her commune on September 7, but the toddler was never returned.

“I knew that she liked my daughter very much.… I did not expect that she would take my daughter away from me,” the mother said at court.

Defending herself, Chhoun Lin admitted to having brought the girl to Banteay Meanchey but stated that, in her opinion, she had not committed a crime.

“I loved her very much. I used also to take care of her when she was born and I loved her like my daughter,” she told the court.

“I did not inform her parent because I thought that if I told them, they would not agree it so I brought her with me.”

When questioned by the prosecutor and the judge over concerns that human trafficking could have played a part in the alleged crime, she denied any suggestions that such motives were involved.

Judge You Bunna, of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said yesterday that “taking other people’s children from their families is against the law and juvenile trafficking is also strictly banned in Cambodia.”

A verdict in the case is expected on May 11.

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