A relative of a wealthy timber tycoon has been charged with intentional acts of violence and placed in pre-trial detention for allegedly beating his former girlfriend, actress Pich Aviza, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court spokesperson Huot Vichet said yesterday.
Kean Heng, brother-in-law of Try Pheap, allegedly viciously assaulted Pich Aviza at a Sihanoukville club on Sunday, leaving her with cuts to her face and bruises to her body, visible in pictures that went viral on social media.
Vichet said Heng was charged under Article 217 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, which carries a jail term of between one and three years and a fine of between 2 million and 6 million riel (about $500 to $1500).
Heng on Tuesday took to Facebook claiming to have reached a resolution with Aviza’s family, while police said that despite their investigations on Tuesday, they had not discovered any evidence in the case – prompting observers to speculate police hesitated to act due to Heng’s social standing.
But in the wake of public outcry over the case, police appeared to change their tune yesterday, summoning both Heng and Aviza for questioning. However, an image of the two sitting at the same table during the interrogation again called police methods into question, Gender and Development in Cambodia executive director Ros Sopheap said.
She said a victim should never be forced to confront her alleged abuser at the police station or in court, because they could be intimidated into withdrawing a complaint or further traumatised by the encounter.
“The victim is already really scared and already feels powerless . . . and the police and perpetrator seem to be the powerful side,” she said. “The victim’s psychological health is very important at this stage.”
She stressed there should not be a compensation payment to settle the case outside court, as the violence was a criminal act.
In a similar case earlier this year, a complaint against real estate tycoon Sok Bun – who was captured on security cameras savagely beating local TV personality Ek Socheata – was dropped after a financial settlement was made.
All but 10 months of Bun’s three-year sentence was suspended, with critics noting he spent more time in hospital than in jail during his short stint behind bars.
Pheap, who enjoys close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen, moved to distance himself from the alleged assault yesterday and condemned the actions on Facebook.
“Violence against women is a disgusting thing,” he wrote, urging the media to stop linking his name to the case because of the alleged violent actions of his brother-in-law.