Six men accused of gang raping, then strangling a prostitute to death were found guilty at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday and sentenced to between 20 and 30 years’ jail. A seventh accused was released.
Judge Keo Muny sentenced Chin Navy, 24, Earm Luch, 20, Khat Suor, 18, and Nang Navy, 19, to 30 years in jail each for the rape-murder committed on July 25 of last year. Underage suspects Morm Vanan, 17, and Moeun Khey, 15, were sentenced to 20 years each for the same charges.
“The court decided to lift the charges against Prey Soklak,” he added. Soklak, who reported the crime, had not been a participant, Muny ruled.
The six men convicted were arrested three days after the July 26 discovery of the body of Vong Konthea, 26, in Por Sen Chey district. She was found wrapped in a black hammock and dumped on a plot of land near the construction site where the seven accused were living.
According to confessions read in court last month, Navy and Vanan negotiated with Konthea, who was working as a prostitute, to have sex for $10 each.
But after they brought her to the construction site, the others also had sex with her. She demanded $10 from each of them, but they refused, so she shouted for help. The defendants held her down as Suor strangled her to death.
During the trial, however, the six suspects claimed they were beaten during questioning and that their acquitted friend, Soklak, had urged them to confess.
Por Sen Chey district police deputy chief Touch Phan denied the confessions were forced. He said Soklak and the others were detained in different rooms.
“The six just put the blame on Prey Soklak because he reported the case to the police,” he said. After the verdict, the court was tense as most of the convicted men cried and shouted.
“It is unjust for me; I did not commit the crime,” cried Nang Navy as he dropped his head forcefully to the dock. Navy repeated the phrase over and over until he was led to the truck that would take him back to Prey Sar prison. Others cried out that the court had released the actual perpetrator, referring to Soklak.
“I would not protest if my son committed the crime, but he came to tell me before his arrest that he did not know anything,” said Sieb Pheap, Nang Navy’s mother, who cried as she tried to give 2,000 riel to her son.
A 2013 UN report showed that one in five Cambodian men have committed rape, but more than 44 per cent of them have never faced legal consequences. More than five per cent of the men surveyed admitted to participating in a gang rape.