A desperate plea for help made to a local crime call-in show in Sihanoukville this week launched an hours-long police search for a 15-year-old girl who said she had been knocked unconscious, robbed and locked in a strange apartment. The only catch, authorities learned, was that she hadn’t been.
According to deputy Preah Sihanouk Provincial Police chief Kol Phally, officers arrested alleged teenage hoaxster Em Srey Vin on Sunday, the same day that police discovered her claims of having been duped into meeting a friend, then knocked out by a stranger who stole her jewellery and detained her, were the mere stuff of an adolescent prank.
Srey Vin’s call had been made to Radio ABC Cambodia, a station that allows citizen reporters to call in to report crimes, traffic accidents and other goings-on in their neighbourhoods.
“The girl said she was joking when she said her friend invited her over, and that an unknown person knocked her unconscious, took her bracelet and necklace, and kept them in a purple two-storey flat, and then asked the authorities to liberate her,” Phally said yesterday. “In fact, we found the girl at her aunt’s house, laughing happily.”
The call prompted authorities in and around Sihanoukville to launch a massive multi-department search – with orders from the General Commissariat of National Police – involving multiple experts capable of tracing the girl’s phone number, which was obtained from Radio ABC Cambodia, he added.
“But, the fact is, when the police questioned the girl, she said no one robbed or kidnapped her. We tried to investigate immediately, because underage girls are afraid [to report] rape cases,” he continued.
Men Vanny, chief of provincial minor crime police, said “police accused her under two articles of the penal code, 311 for [giving a false statement to authorities] and 621 for using a fake identity in public” – charges that carry a sentence of up to one year.
The penal code allows charges for minors over 14 years old, but stipulates that their sentences can be reduced to half the maximum penalty.
The National Police website on Tuesday also maintained that the girl had lied to authorities before, stating she had once falsely reported that she had been robbed of a bag containing more than $1,000.
A Radio ABC Cambodia commentator who declined to be named said yesterday that the station was surprised to hear that the story had been a hoax, but nonetheless urged clemency on the part of authorities.
“The station also wants police to reduce her punishment, but this is the procedure of the General Commissariat of National Police,” he said. “In the past, false information has been given by listeners or ‘special reporters’, but our employees have flagged it immediately, and it was not on air.”
Nov Savuth, chief of the provincial penal police office, suggested that ABC “warn their listeners or reporters that if they give false news, they will face the law, because their information will make authorities get in trouble”.