A man is in police custody after he allegedly raped and killed a Cham Muslim woman with an intellectual disability in Tbong Khmum on Friday, in a horrific case that prompted calls for better legal protection for people living with disabilities in Cambodia.
It was also the latest case in which commune authorities have failed to investigate serious crimes against women, instead allowing them to be resolved through informal negotiations.
Tbong Khmum District Police Chief Suos Sealy said suspect Hab Yan, 45, was arrested on Friday evening for allegedly raping and murdering the 48-year-old woman.
“The suspect admitted that he raped the victim in the past and she was pregnant for four months, but both families negotiated to abort the child in order to end the case and provide a little compensation,” he said. The abortion occurred in late 2016.
Ket Thorn, chief of Sralop commune police, said the victim’s body was discovered in her hut when villagers noticed she hadn’t left home that morning.
“They saw the victim’s throat was slit and they screamed,” Thorn said.
Thorn admitted he was aware of the previous compensation, but did not investigate the rape “because the family did not file a complaint”.
The victim’s brother-in-law alleged Yan’s abuse continued after their negotiation.
“Injustice against people with a disability [persists],” said Ngin Saoroth, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation. “They are less protected before the law. Most of the lawyers and judges do not know how to protect them.”
Gender and Development for Cambodia’s Ros Sopheap, meanwhile, said police had been “irresponsible”, adding that if they had investigated when the first crime took place, the woman might still be alive.
“The rapist still has to bear responsibility and go to jail,” she said. “This case shows people know – but they always underestimate – violence against women.”