A PHNOM Penh woman accused of severely abusing two teenagers who worked as domestic servants in her home has been charged with battery, court officials said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday laid the charge against Sao Chanthy, 38, following her arrest on the weekend, according to deputy court prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot.
Rights workers and local police have accused the Sen Sok district woman of torturing a 17-year-old boy and his 14-year-old sister, after both were found with scars on their bodies following a tip-off from neighbours earlier this month.
But rights advocates have questioned the charge, saying that it does not reflect the severity of the crime.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor with rights group Licadho, which brought the case to police attention last week, said he believed the charge was inadequate compared with the abuse inflicted on the two children.
“If they said that the case was intentional battery, that implies it happened only one time,” he said. “But in this case, [the abuse] continued for a long time.... It was torture.”
Part of the problem, Am Sam Ath said, is that the Kingdom’s revised penal code has not yet come into force. He said he hoped the court would take into account the severity of Sao Chanthy’s alleged actions when the case comes to trial.
In an interview yesterday, the 17-year-old victim said he had worked in Sao Chanthy’s home since he was 11, but that the abuse did not start until 2008.
In a high-profile case earlier this year, a Phnom Penh woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of abusing a domestic worker. The court had charged her under human trafficking laws.
But Ek Chheng Huot said yesterday that court officials could not charge Sao Chanthy with a more serious crime.
“We could not find any evidence to show that this was related to torturing,” he said.
Battery is a misdemeanour under the existing UNTAC criminal code and carries a penalty of one to five years’ jail, depending on severity.