A former colonel who headed a centre for the disabled has been sentenced to five years in prison by a Beantey Meanchey court for the rape and attempted rape of three girls aged 9 to 13.
Khoun Vanna, who became deputy director of a local Disabled Development Centre in the province’s rural Svay Chek district following his retirement, was first arrested in April 2013.
“The court has been processing and investigating the victims of this case for over a year, and has found Vanna guilty for the rape and attempted rape of underage girls and sentenced him to five years in prison,” said Keo Sokun Thea, provincial court prosecutor.
Vanna is disabled himself, having lost both legs and an eye a decade ago after he stepped on a landmine while stationed at the Thai border.
Vanna lured the girls into the centre he controlled by promising them food and housing, said deputy provincial police chief Sith Losh.
Vanna was also ordered to pay the victims 10 million riel ($2,500) each in compensation.
One of the girls’ families retracted her complaint, although this did not affect the outcome of the trial, said Kate-Marie Engberg of the International Justice Mission, which provided legal assistance to the plaintiffs.
“The girl’s family retracted her civil complaint, but this does not retract the criminal complaint in the case or disallow her testimony as evidence.”
Chea Vanna, one of the victims’ lawyers, said the family retracted their complaint due to lack of evidence, forfeiting her right to compensation, and noted that “we cannot force the victim to file a complaint”.
According to the girls’ legal team, Vanna had long been suspected of abusing girls in Pailin, but continued to do so due to his influential position within the community.
“Because of his position, wealth and power over the community, Khoun Vanna thought no one could touch him. The victims and their families thought no one would believe them,” said IJM attorney Saroeun Sek in a statement.
Parents first filed complaints against Vanna back in 2008. More than 20 complaints were filed by 2012.
Khoem Vando, deputy director of field operations for child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said the punishment was too light given the charges.
“For attempted rape and rape, the minimum punishment is 7 years. [Vanna] got even less than the minimum punishment of the law.”
Vanna’s defence could not be reached for comment.