Chaining a 4-year-old to a post inside a house for eight hours per day does not constitute serious abuse, Koh Kong’s police chief said yesterday, explaining why a woman who subjected her adoptive daughter to such treatment for two years was not arrested and charged.
Police removed the girl, who is now in a Ministry of Social Affairs shelter, from the home on Friday after rights group Adhoc filed a police complaint. The group was alerted to the situation by a fellow resident of the house in Khemarak Phoumin town’s Smach Meanchey commune, which shelters as many as 60 farmers.
The woman admitted to chaining the girl for eight hours each day while she worked at a plantation.
“I think that child abuse is torture, beatings, things like this,” Koh Kong provincial police chief Sam Khitveth told the Post. “This is abuse, but not serious.”
Police questioned the woman, who took the girl as collateral for a loan the girl’s birth mother borrowed from the woman about two years ago, on Friday, but released her after she signed a document promising not to repeat the behaviour.
Khitveth yesterday acknowledged that the woman signed a similar document last year, when another complaint was lodged against her.
“We are still not going to detain her. We will give her one more chance,” Khitveth said. “She is poor and uneducated, and the girl did not suffer any wounds.”
His statements came after a joint press conference with Adhoc, at which the rights group called for her arrest.
“Police claimed they pitied the woman because she is very poor, a widow and did not mistreat or beat [the girl], but chained her up inside the house every day,” Neang Boratino, an Adhoc coordinator in Koh Kong said. “It really is child abuse. She chained the girl alone inside the house.”
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said it’s difficult to tell whether chaining the girl constituted child abuse, since the woman said she did it so the child would not get lost or drown. But she should receive some sort of penalty since she was previously warned, he said.
Article 17 of Criminal Code defines abuse as intentional threat against life, harassment against personal integrity and sexual harassment.