The authorities are gathering information in the hunt for the man who raped an eight-year-old school pupil in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
Child Protection Unit (CPU) – a joint initiative between NGO Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) and the National Police – said that at about 8am on Tuesday, the victim was dropped off to her school in the capital’s Tuol Kork district. While walking into the school, the suspect called her to come and talk to him.
He told the victim that her mother had been seriously injured and was in the hospital and that he was sent to take her to her mother.
The man then brought her to an unknown location where he took her to a room, drugged her and raped her.
The suspect then brought her to another location in Mean Chey district’s Boeung Tompun commune and dropped her off before leaving. The victim was found about one hour later in a distressed state.
CPU described the man, about 18 years old, as overweight and tall with short hair, fair skin and large eyes. He was wearing a red T-shirt, jeans and trainers. He was also reported to ride a red and black Zoomer motorcycle.
CPU noted that there is information that a person of similar description has attempted this at least once before.
Phnom Penh Department of Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection director Keo Thea said on Thursday that the authorities “at all levels”, including the police and the victim’s family, were working hard to identify the suspect.
“We cannot disclose further information at this point as it might jeopardise the investigation,” Thea said.
Kong Sovan, Mean Chey district deputy police chief, said upon receiving the case report, his team and Tuol Kork police launched a joint investigation.
“Our team sent the evidence to the Tuol Kork police, including a photograph of the suspect,” he said.
Kim Kolydo, police chief at Boeung Salang commune – where the victim’s school is located – said after hearing about the case, teams of police officers worked together in gathering evidence and clues, but they were “having difficulty in identifying the suspect”.
“The girl has been admitted to a hospital for treatment,” Kolydo said.
Chief of CPU child care service, Som Vathna, said her organisation has received reports of similar cases, where the suspects committed the crimes by luring victims near their schools.
She said each year CPU receives about 300 reports of child sexual abuse nationwide. Concerned about the safety of girls, Vathna stressed that “without proper protection, they are vulnerable to sexual abuse”.
“The problem is still rampant, especially in the rural areas. Young girls being victims of rape is not a new story anymore. Therefore, I hope there will be proper measures to protect them,” she said.
CCF founder Scott Neeson posted CPU’s alert on his Facebook page on Wednesday. He recommended that “the information be disseminated widely and children and parents are made aware of this situation so that children do not go anywhere with strangers and report any suspicious or similar incidents to their teachers”.
He also urged schools to ensure that “any and all CCTVs are working, properly aligned, and recording”.
“This is a genuine request for your help, from our Child Protection Unit. Please share with children, parents and your local school. This person needs to be off Phnom Penh streets ASAP,” the post read.
Ministry of Education spokesperson Ros Soveacha said the ministry has been made aware of the issue and that it always regards the security and safety of students as its priority.
He said the ministry has vowed to implement stricter security measures. “The ministry is ready to cooperate with relevant authorities in order to take part in efforts to strengthen the safety of students,” he said.