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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Inquiry due in ‘pedo’ case

Kem Cham Chhen allegedly abused his victims behind the locked doors of his classroom (pictured) in Kampong Chhnang province.
Kem Cham Chhen allegedly abused his victims behind the locked doors of his classroom (pictured) in Kampong Chhnang province. Eliah Lillis

Inquiry due in ‘pedo’ case

At the request of a former teacher charged with sexually assaulting his underage students, the Kampong Chhnang provincial governor has launched an extrajudicial investigation into his case, documents obtained by the Post yesterday reveal.

According to a Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspections document, dated January 2 and signed by provincial director Som Socheata, a “working group” has been established to question victims and witnesses.

The group was set up in response to a request from accused teacher Kem Cham Chhen, dated November 5 last year, a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Provincial Governor Chou Chandouen inked a directive on December 1, ordering Socheata to take charge of a working group to include provincial education director Pich Sambor and Loch Sovannara, provincial police chief.

“The working group has an obligation to go down to investigate and collect information and make a written report . . . to provide ideas for the governor to check and make a decision,” Chandouen’s letter reads.

Chandoeun yesterday confirmed he organised the working group at the accused’s behest. “The teacher had requested this because he has seen this as injustice for him,” he said. “This is not related to the court, because we do [our own] investigation.”

Socheata promptly assigned three representatives to interview witnesses at the school on January 4.

“[They] have an obligation to go down to meet witnesses to clarify about the four victims who had accused Kem Chan Chhen. Please, local authorities and institutions help . . . make the mission successful,” Socheata’s statement reads.

An investigation by Post Weekend in November found that the four victims had been impacted by the sexual abuse allegedly committed by Chhen; three of the four girls had since dropped out of school.

The girls, who claimed that Chhen touched their breasts and kissed them, said they had been done a second injustice by the lagging court case, which began in 2013 but was suspended, then later revived.

The first warrant for Chhen’s arrest was issued in early November. When police failed to act, the court issued a second warrant in late December.

Kampong Chhnang court spokesman Chhoun Sivin yesterday said he had not heard about the working group and reiterated that the case would be sent to trial, though no date has yet been set.

Khiev Khuy, an uncle to one of the victims, said he hoped the working group would find justice for his niece, but remained sceptical. “We wonder why the provincial authority followed the suspect’s request . . . If they take sides with suspect, it would impact the court decision.”

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