Municipal Court judge questions three accused in case of abused girl, 11.
TWO women and one man arrested in connection with the case of an 11-year-old domestic servant who was tortured with pincers, whips and electric wires were sent to Prey Sar prison Monday after appearing for the first time before an investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The three suspects were arrested in a raid last Friday after police received reports from neighbours that the girl had been severely mistreated.
They have been identified as Meas Nary, a 41-year-old high school teacher; her husband Va Saroeun, a former Ministry of Education official; and Thoeung Reth, 62, who has been accused of selling the child to the couple for US$400 when she was 2 years old.
Deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea said Meas Nary, who is accused of inflicting the torture, and Va Saroeun faced up to five years in prison for causing injury to the girl, whereas Thoeung Reth could spend between seven and 15 years in prison if found guilty of selling her, a violation of the 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.
“They have still not confessed to their actions relating to the torture victim,” he said. “It is normal for the accused not to confess their guilt.”
Un Vuthy, a programme officer for the International Labour Organisation, said Monday that, if the allegations turned out to be true, the case would be a rare example of the authorities rescuing a domestic servant from torture at the hands of an employer.
“This does not occur very often,” he said. “In most cases, it is hard for us to know about the secret torture because the victims don’t leave the houses. We have to rely on tips from neighbours.”
Pean Rathamanith, a senior monitor for children’s rights at the rights group Licadho, said he welcomed the decision to keep the three suspects behind bars before their trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
He added that, following an interview with the girl shortly after authorities discovered her, he became convinced that she had been subjected to serious and systematic torture for at least a year.
The victim was said to have been abandoned by her biological parents while still an infant, then entered into the care of Thoeung Reth.
Pean Rathamanith said that in her interviews the girl said she had been forced to do housework for years and was abused repeatedly.
She is staying at a local shelter, which Pean Rathamanith declined to name to ensure her safety.