A mother is being held in police custody after her 6-month-old infant was found murdered on Tuesday in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sangke commune, possibly by the girl’s stepfather, police said yesterday.
Commune police chief Huy Hean said Chan Ratana, 27, had briefly left her daughter in the care of her boyfriend. When her partner allegedly informed her that her child was unwell, she returned home and found her daughter dead.
James McCabe, director of NGO Child Protection Unit (CPU), said that after the child’s death was confirmed at Calmette Hospital, Ratana took the body to a pagoda, where police found it. He said a forensic pathologist ruled out an accident. “The cause of death [is] suffocation.”
The boyfriend, Keu Hamsas, 29, has not yet been located, and police have identified him as a suspect. According to district deputy police chief Ev Chhun Peng, Ratana has been detained since Tuesday evening after she was suspected of warning Hamsas not to go to the police and failing to report the infant’s death. “We are still figuring out whether the suspect did it alone or whether she joined hands [with him]”, Peng said.
He added that heroin was detected in the mother’s blood, and that she will be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning today.
Peng declined to comment on charges, but McCabe said she could face counts of concealing a crime and drug abuse.
According to McCabe, this is the 21st murder of a child under the age of 15 in Cambodia this year. Last year saw 25 such murders and eight attempted murders.