Police are on the hunt for a Kampot man who allegedly murdered his wife in a chilling, possibly premeditated attack on Sunday, a day after she sought a divorce in Takeo province.
Koh Prech Commune Police Chief Uk Sam Ouen said the suspect, Hang Chanthou, 26, allegedly stabbed his wife, Pen Chan Sreykuoch, 23, in a restroom in Prey Bam village, Kiri Vong district.
Sam Ouen said the victim was found with 14 stab wounds to her hands and body. The pair were married in 2013, and have a 3-year-old son together.
“On January 6, they both went with their parents to the commune hall to get a divorce, but the commune chief educated them not to divorce because the husband did not agree,” Sam Ouen said.
“And the next morning at 7am I got the information about the killing . . . The husband already fled. Maybe he had a plan.”
The victim’s mother, Kob Kunthea, said yesterday that the murder was the latest chapter in a long history of abuse allegedly perpetrated by her son-in-law.
Fleeing her Kampot home for her parents’ house in Takeo on Saturday, Sreykuoch told her mother she wanted a divorce because her husband “always caused trouble” and she “couldn’t stand it anymore”.
“Before she came, her husband beat her and put her head in a water jar,” she said. Chanthou allegedly pursued her, arriving in Takeo that afternoon, hurling verbal abuse and a motorcycle helmet at her.
After that, the victim, her parents and her husband tried and failed to start the process of a divorce at the commune level.
The following morning, Sreykuoch asked her mother to wait for her to have a bath so they could go to the market together.
“When she took off the clothes, the husband came from the back door to stab her many times,” Kunthea said.
“She screamed for help but the husband said: ‘I’ll stab you until you die’. I approached but he did not listen to me. Then he ran out.”
“My daughter got a big cut on her stomach. She was still alive. We took her out of the bathroom, and then she died immediately. I want the police to arrest him immediately. My daughter was beautiful,” she said, through tears.
Koh Prech Commune Chief Chhit Pan yesterday defended his “reconciliation” approach, adding it wasn’t the first time the couple had asked for a divorce.
“I told them that I could not let them divorce – only the court can decide,” he said.
“Many months ago, they came to ask for divorce, but I told them I could not do that. From what I heard, the family had conflict. The husband did not let the wife manage the family money. He kept it for himself.”
Ros Sopheap, executive director at Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the mindset that domestic violence is a “family matter between husband and wife” meant cases of abuse were too often overlooked until they reached a tragic end.
“I am really disappointed that the local authorities and police do not pay attention. This is a serious case,” she said.
“People misunderstand the nature of domestic violence; they think it is not serious until there is physical violence and serious injury.”
She said the commune chief had also misinterpreted his role – while he could not grant a divorce himself, he could facilitate the process and include the police and local women’s committees to ensure the safety of the victim.
“This case will scare women who dare to implement the law – if she tries to exercise her right, then she is killed,” she said.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley
Updated: 6:58am, Tuesday 9 January 2017