THE man arrested in connection with the July 5 rape of a French woman has been identified
by witnesses as the robber who broke into her house.
Srey Kroeung, a former law student, was identified by the house's maid and guard
and a Frenchman who was present during the break-in, although none of them saw him
commit the rape, said Interior Ministry General Mao Chandara.
The Cambodian guard and maid picked him out of a July 12 line-up, while the Frenchman
identified him from mug shots, Chandara said.
Four men, including Kroeung, were arrested July 10 and 11 in connection with the
break-in at the Tuol Sleng home. They are allegedly affiliated to the Big Brother
gang reportedly targeting expatriate homes in Phnom Penh. Kroeung confessed to the
rape under interrogation, Chandara said. He allegedly entered the house at 8:30pm,
armed with a K-54 pistol, while his accomplices kept at a safe distance outside.
According to Chandara, Kroeung, a former law student, was picked up July 10 after
a police bulletin was issued describing the profile of the robber given by witnesses.
When a distinct scar was spotted on one of Kroeung's hands, the match was made and
the net closed in on Kroeung and his accomplices, Chandara said.
The general did not say when and if Kroeung, who along with the others is being held
in custody, would be formally charged with rape. French Ambassador Gildas Le Lidec,
had been briefed on the suspects and on Kroeung's confession, he said.
The general, however, expressed his doubts about how the rapist could have acted
alone, pointing out that he was outnumbered by three Frenchmen in the house at the
"In my career as a policeman, this is the first time I've heard of a lone rapist
carrying out such an act in a house where there were three other men," Chandara
Chandara questioned why the others - who had been confined to an unlocked upstairs
bathroom - had not acted to save the woman from being raped in a downstairs bedroom.
The house maid, Pang Kim, told the Post that after the robber had cleaned the four
French nationals of their money, he ordered her and two of the Frenchmen into the
unlocked bathroom. She said she urged them to call for help from a telephone in the
next room, but they replied that it was too risky.
Kim said that, contrary to police reports, the third Frenchman was not put in the
bathroom but went downstairs with the robber and the woman.
After not more than 10 minutes in the bathroom, Kim said she ventured downstairs
after hearing the Khmer guard's moto pull up outside.
She found the French woman and her boyfriend sitting on the floor, weeping. The woman
gesticulated to her that she had been raped.
The woman did not appear to be injured and her boyfriend was not bound or gagged,
A Pasteur Institute doctor who had determined "recent sexual intercourse"
had occurred, said it would not be possible to identify the rapist from semen samples
taken from the woman.
Meanwhile, Kim confirmed that the assailant had demanded to see a "Tony"
when he first arrived at the house, while the four French people were returning home.
She said he claimed that Tony owed him $600 in back-rent for a moped which he had
hired for two months. When replied that Tony was not there, he asked for a photograph
of him, which she did not have. The man then took her into house and robbed the occupants.
"Tony", a former French occupant of the house, spoke to the Post on condition
of anonymity for fear of reprisals from embassy officials and the francophone community.
He said he moved out of the house at 6pm on July 5 - two-and-a-half hours before
the attack took place. He did so to make room for the three French students, including
the woman and her boyfriend, who had landed in Cambodia the previous day to begin
summer internships for the French government.
Tony acknowledged the assailant used his name, and that he had rented a moped for
two months, but denied knowing Srey Kroeung. He said he had not dodged payments on
the rental, and the rental shop confirmed this to the Post.
"He had either obtained my name and address from neighbors, my workplace or
the rental agent from which I hired the bike," Tony said.
Meanwhile, another occupant of the house, Benoit Barrier, was repatriated to France
July 13 for "security reasons", sources said.
Barrier, assigned to Phnom Penh in the middle of fulfilling his duty of national
service, is understood to have been the subject of at least one recent complaint
to the French embassy about his treatment of a Vietnamese woman.
Barrier, in the house at the time of the rape, telephoned for help after the attacker
The woman and the other two Frenchmen were flown back to France the morning after
the attack. It remains unknown whether she will return to testify in court.
"The decision to bring the woman back to Cambodia to identify the suspect or
to testify in court will depend on the discretion of the local judge who will deliberate
over the case," said French Embassy spokesman Franck Gellet. "It is also
up to the victim to decide."
Legal observers noted that a trial conducted in absentia would make it more difficult
for prosecutors to prove rape against Srey Kroeung
Sok Sam Oeun, a lawyer with the Cambodia Defenders Project said that the woman was
the best witness to testify on the rape.
Carole Garrison, executive director of the Cooperation Council for Cambodia, said
the woman's return to testify would be critical in ensuring her rapist did not continue
to stalk the streets of Phnom Penh.
"The question really boils down to do we sacrifice the one for the many, so
that we can save other Western women from being raped."