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Police turning a blind eye to gang rape

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your two articles: “Five men accused in Siem Reap gang rape” (September 22), which reported that a girl was raped by her boyfriend and four others; and “Seven men charged in girl’s rape and murder to face trial in Kampong Cham” (September 23), which reported that a girl was raped and killed by members of a youth gang, one of whom is her neighbour and who claimed he had fallen in love with her.

After reading the two articles, I experienced shock and felt so sad about the two victims, especially the child who was murdered after being raped. These brutal activities are not isolated cases but have been occurring regularly in the recent past and perhaps longer. In 2002, a study by PSI (Population Services International) on sexual relationships revealed sex workers in Phnom Penh were often victims of gang rape, or bauk (Khmer for “plus”) .

In 2003, a study by GAD/C (Gender and Development for Cambodia) revealed that female students were also sometimes victims of bauk. In 2004, a study by CARE International showed that bauk was not limited to Phnom Penh, but occurs across Cambodia. In 2009, a study by an independent researcher revealed that over 10 percent of a sample of young men not in a stable relationship had perpetrated bauk with a sex worker in the last three months.

We should urge the police and the courts to deal severely with the perpetrators of these two recent youth gang rape cases if they are found guilty. Note that the two cases seem copy-and-pasted from bauk cases that many youth perpetrators have learned and used against female sex workers.

In my opinion, police have failed to act in cases where sex workers have claimed they are gang raped. Not only do police fail to act in the event of bauk but sex-workers fear to bring charges, as they fear the police reaction – including arrest for “illegal business under the trafficking law”– even while the law remains silent on the issue of voluntary sex work.

In the past, when police cracked down on brothels, massage parlours, guest houses and hotels, police arrested the sex workers but allowed the men to go free.

The arrest of rapists and jail with so-called “re-education” is not sufficient. We call for the government, donors, youth workers and human rights groups to increase their interventions to change men’s attitude about bauk. Critically, the issue has to be raised through awareness in the school curriculum and outreach activities. We all have a responsibility to change the attitude of our young men so that violence against women and girls is actively discouraged.

Tong Soprach
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.



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