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Murders mar Khmer New Year festivities

James McCabe from the Child Protection Unit (CPU) investigates a child murder in Kampong Cham over Khmer New Year
James McCabe from the Child Protection Unit (CPU) investigates a child murder in Kampong Cham over Khmer New Year. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Murders mar Khmer New Year festivities

A spate of child murders cast a dark shadow over last week’s Khmer New Year festivities, with six children between 15 months and 12 years of age killed so far this month, investigators said.

A military police officer is expected to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court this morning, likely facing a charge of unintentional murder of a 6-year-old on Friday, according to James McCabe, operations manager of the Phnom Penh-based Child Protection Unit (CPU), which investigates violence against children.

“It was a horrific week of pointless murders of children,” McCabe said yesterday.

Just after 4:30pm on Friday, the officer fired his pistol at a wall at the home of 6-year-old Hem Nek Heang in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, while allegedly arguing with his girlfriend, McCabe said. The bullet allegedly ricocheted off numerous objects, ultimately passing through the heart of Nek Heang, who was playing down the hall.

The death occurred three days after a 2-year-old girl was fatally stabbed through the heart with a samurai sword in Kampong Cham province, McCabe said.

A task force is investigating the murder of Kong Seng Leng, which investigators say happened at about 7:15pm, when the girl and her 10-year-old sister were walking home from a local pagoda.

A motive for the crime has not been established, but three men on a single motorbike allegedly pulled up beside the sisters, one stabbing Seng Leng through the chest.

“It’s still unclear what happened before the girls were approached [by] these men,” McCabe said.

“This is an extremely brutal attack on a defenceless child.”

Two men fled on foot, and one on a motorbike, McCabe went on to say.

The task force arrested Soun Phal, the teen suspected of driving the motorbike, said Tum Channa, Kampong Cham’s provincial penal police chief.

A wealth of physical evidence was found at the scene, and McCabe said he was “confident there will be further [arrests]”.

These two murders follow four other child killings reported this month.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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