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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Woman raped on her first full day in town

Woman raped on her first full day in town

THE first rape of a Western woman was reported to French diplomats July 5 amid a

resurgence of crime against expatriates, including hold-ups in homes.

According to one of the three Frenchmen who was inside the house in Tuol Sleng district

when a 24-year old student from France was raped, a pistol-wielding Cambodian, wearing

dark green military fatigues, burst in at 8:30pm last Friday.

The woman - along with two of the men - had only arrived in Phnom Penh the day before.

The occupants were marched upstairs where the gunman demanded money, said the Frenchman,

who asked not to be named.

"He ordered the Khmer maid to lay face down on the floor, and cocked his pistol

as if he were going to shoot her," he said. "We then intervened, saying

we would show him where the money was hidden."

After the gunman had searched the rooms, cleaning them of $1,130 in cash and a wad

of traveler checks, he ordered the three men and the maid into the second-floor bathroom,

and then led the French woman downstairs.

"At 8:55pm, he went downstairs with her," he said. "That's when we

began to worry about what was going to happen to her, because there was nothing left

for him to take."

"At 9:00pm, when we heard the moto of our guard pull up outside the house. We

went downstairs and found her sitting alone in a corner, sobbing," he said.

"When she said she had been raped, [one of the men] went berserk, saying he

wanted to kill himself."

The victim added that as the assailant was making his getaway he pointed his gun

at the guard's temple, threatening to kill him if he went to the police.

The report of the rape was confirmed on Saturday by Franck Gellet, the spokesman

for the French Embassy, who issued an official statement which expressed its outrage.

Gellet added that, after the attack, the woman was taken to Calmette Hospital for

medical tests, then flown back to France on Saturday afternoon "on her own volition".

She was accompanied by two of the three men who had been with her, both of whom were

in "a state of shock."

The two men had arrived here to began voluntary training of Cambodian students at

the Faculty of Law and Economics, under the auspices of a Franco-Cambodian cooperation

program, said Gellet. The woman was about to start a summer internship at the Embassy.

The reported rape occurred within hours of King Norodom Sihanouk dispatching a security

advisory to foreigners "of both sexes" in Cambodia, telling them to take

"maximum precautions" in the Kingdom.

The report of the rape, which had been given by the victim to Embassy officials,

however, was not confirmed by the police officer who is heading the investigation.

Mok Chito, chief of the Municipal Police, said that the Khmer guard had notified

police about the theft, but that the victim had not filed a complaint of rape.

However, the witness interviewed by the Post said he did try to tell police that

the woman had been raped, but that they did not seem to understand.

Chito said: "So far, we cannot say if she was raped or not, because when we

arrived on the scene of the crime, we did not receive that kind of information. We

are still waiting to hear from the French woman."

Expressing disbelief that a Khmer could carry out such a crime against a Western

woman, Westerners interviewed by the Post said this was the first report they had

heard of such a case.

In a "demarche" to Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Ung Huot on Monday,

French Ambassador Gildas le Lidec condemned the attack and called on the Cambodian

authorities to take "all the necessary measures" to crack down on the crimewave

in which expats have fallen prey since the Khmer New Year, said Gellet.

The incident topped a fortnight in which ten other foreigners were menaced with pistols,

and one was shot, on Phnom Penh streets or inside their own homes, despite the Ministry

of Interior's deployment of crack anti-crime units, which patrol the city in pairs

at night on motorbikes.

At 4:00am on June 30, a Frenchman in a cyclo was shot in the stomach as he rode to

central market bus station to catch the early morning coach to Ho Chi Minh City,

said Barnaby Jones, editor of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia weekly security

newsletter.

"A few minutes earlier, two men had come up to him and demanded money,"

said Jones. "After he scared them off by crying out 'Police!', two other men

drove up on a motorbike and fired at him."

The man was not badly wounded, and was medivaced to Singapore.

On July 2, an NGO landcruiser was hijacked near the Killing Fields at Choeng Ek,

Jones said. As they were driving off, the thieves fired shots at another NGO vehicle

which was driving in the opposite direction. No one was hurt and the robbers were

eventually arrested.

On July 3, a walk-in robbery took place at an Australian residence located in the

same street as that in which the alleged rape occurred.

The eyewitness account given by Jim Shields, an Australian architect, by his own

admission bore an uncanny resemblance to the break-in at the French house on July

5.

"At about 8:00pm, as I was returning home I noticed a man who was following

me closely on a motorbike," said Shields. "As I opened the gate, he came

up behind me and stuck a pistol into my back."

The assailant demanded money, and when he was not satisfied, forced his way into

the house. He then ordered Shields to lead him to the other foreigners who were living

there.

"I would guess he was a military man," said Shields. "He hugged the

walls as he turned corners, looking out for the other foreigners, and observed the

rooms for a long time before moving on."

The gunman rounded up the three Australians and a Khmer, two men and two women. A

fourth Australian, who entered the room as the assailant had his back turned, escaped

to another room, locked it and turned off the lights, said Shields.

The assailant then ordered the Khmer woman to rummage through the house with him.

According to Shields, he eventually took off only with cash, leaving behind valuable

goods such as a laptop computer.

Before leaving, the robber said he wanted to take a photograph of the occupants,

saying: 'If we told the police, he would kill us'," Shields said. He did not

take the photo.

Shields said the pistol the robber carried was a K-54, the same type of revolver

which police said was used in July 5 break-in of the French home down the road.

"I was surprised, very surprised," added Shields. "I had never heard

of a robbery taking place inside a house before."

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