The Child Protection Unit is closing out a “truly horrendous month” for serious crimes committed against children, with the seperate investigations of a homicide of a 3-year-old and the rape of a 15-month-old girl, allegedly by a man with HIV, taking place in just the past few days.
The child protection charity’s director, James McCabe, said it handled 29 cases in August – almost one per day – after the force had seen a decrease in crimes over the past several months, with cases numbering in the low teens.
“This is the worst month of the year so far, but we have seen a decrease,” he said.
In one particularly “shocking” case on Monday evening in Siem Reap town, a grandmother left her 15-month-old granddaughter in the care of Khoth Khoeum, 38, who was known to the family, as she went to the market.
At about 8pm, the grandmother returned home to find the child badly bleeding. The child was taken to hospital for treatment and it was discovered she was raped.
Khoeum was arrested on Wednesday and charged with aggravated rape, which could carry a 15-year prison term.
Police understand Khoeum received treatment for HIV, so the girl was immediately put on antiretroviral medication in hospital in the hopes she will not contract the virus, but for now it is too early to tell, McCabe said.
The 29 cases in August included three homicides, of children aged 7, 4 and 3. Police are still investigating the death of the 3-year-old, whom they declined to name, in Kampot’s Angkor Chey district.
On Wednesday morning, the mother of the child left him in the care of a 43-year-old man, also known to the family, while she went to the market, but returned home to find her child dead. The man had fled the scene.
Sem Mey, Angkor Chey deputy police chief for serious crimes, said police initially suspected the boy had died after fainting, but experts examined the body and found evidence of trauma, leading them to suspect homicide.
“On the boy’s back, there were some black and blue bruises. So if the boy did not faint or fall unconscious by himself, it was caused by other people killing [him],” Mey said.
As of press time yesterday, Mey and McCabe said that an active manhunt was ongoing to track down the 43-year-old suspect.