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Koh Kong stepmother charged in child abuse

A KOH Kong woman accused of beating her 12-year-old stepson has been charged with intentional battery, a provincial court official said Tuesday.

Under the UNTAC criminal code, the woman, who was arrested Friday, faces a potential jail term of between two months and five years if found guilty, depending on the extent of her stepson’s injuries.

Rights workers say she forced the boy to earn money by collecting rubbish and selling the scraps. When he didn’t earn enough money, he was beaten, and when he earned too much, the stepmother also beat him, they said.

Meas Vanthana, deputy director of the Koh Kong provincial court, on Tuesday confirmed that the woman has been charged and is being held in pretrial detention.

“We charged her on Saturday with intentional battery of her 12-year-old stepson, and now she is in temporary custody pending further investigation,” he said.

Chhin Chamroeun, a provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said on Tuesday that the boy needed a new place to live. “We are taking measures to find a new home for the boy because we are afraid that his father is not a good person and cannot feed or take care of him,” she said, and added that the boy’s father has “a drinking problem”.

The boy said on Monday that he “pitied” his stepmother. “I went to visit her on Saturday, and I want the police to release her so that she can go back home to take care of my father because he does not have anyone to look after him,” he said.

“I won’t stay at my home anymore if my stepmother comes back, because I am afraid she will beat me again. She used to beat me on the legs, hands, head and thighs. If I cried, she just beat me harder,” he added.

Lao Linda, director of the Tiroum Khet Primary School, where the boy is a student, said she agreed that he should stay in a home managed by Adhoc.

“He would not have anyone to take care of him if he stayed at home because his father is always drunk,” she said.

Meanwhile, police in Kampot province on Tuesday removed a 16-year-old girl from the custody of her aunt, who has been accused of physically torturing her since she was 10.

Sim Sorphea, head of Adhoc’s women’s rights programme in Kampot, said the girl would “stay at Adhoc’s office while we wait to see how the court will proceed”.

“She looks weak, pale and thin,” she added. “It seems like she has not had any food to eat.”

Thai Sari, the governor of Kampong Trach district, said police and rights workers had “tricked the girl’s aunt” into thinking the girl would be taken to have her wounds treated “by a volunteer doctor”.

There are few statistics available on child abuse in Cambodia, and experts believe many cases go unreported.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said Tuesday that he could not provide any statistics on child abuse.

An unpublished 2007 report from UNICEF said that there are significant “gaps” in the implementation of Cambodia’s Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims.

For instance, the law does not make provisions for rehabilitation measures such as anger management, treatment of alcoholism, or counselling, according to the report. Because most children do not want to lose even parents who abuse them, they are reluctant to alert authorities to instances of abuse, the report said.

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