A 24-year-old traditional healer was charged yesterday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with raping a 13-year-old girl in Mondulkiri’s Koh Nhek district.
Seng Neng, presiding judge at the court, said Chin Ramo, 24, was charged with “raping a girl under the age” when she visited his house last year. The offence is punishable with five to 10 years' imprisonment.
“He is known by the parents of the victim in Koh Nhek district. He brought the victim to visit his house, and forcibly raped her,” the judge said.
The victim’s parents filed a complaint against the healer in May.
During his hearing yesterday, Ramo admitted to statutory rape, but said he and the victim were boyfriend and girlfriend and had consensual sex multiple times.
“I accept that I really had sex with her, but I did not force or rape her as accused. She voluntarily had sex with me,” he told the court and asked that the charges against him be dropped.
Having consensual sex with a minor under the age of 15 is also illegal in Cambodia, and carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
Lim Chan Lida, the victim’s lawyer, alleges that the healer lured the girl to his house.
“The suspect’s activity has strongly damaged my client’s honour, so my client has demanded $10,000 compensation, and is asking the court to strongly punish him,” she said.
Within the past year, there have been at least four other traditional healers tried in court for rape and sexual abuse.
In May, a 68-year old healer was sent to prison in Battambang for sexually abusing and raping three of his patients.
However, the women’s and children’s rights director at rights group Adhoc said it is not a common crime compared to other forms of rape.
“Adhoc has seen a few cases each year,” said Chuon Chamrong. “Most commonly it happens in very rural areas.”
The verdict will be handed down on Wednesday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON