In the wake of a triple homicide stemming from domestic violence, a high-level government official has suggested similar tragedies are unavoidable, despite such killings frequently coming on the heels of pleas for help from victims to local authorities.
In what is at least the seventh high-profile domestic murder this year, a pregnant mother and her two children had their throats slit as they slept in their Tbong Khmum home. Their husband and stepfather, Chraing Phou, the chief suspect, fled the scene and police were continuing to search for him as of late Tuesday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, meanwhile, said he was aware of the killings and that both police and commune authorities “have concern about this, and we are taking serious action”.
“The first step is to arrest,” he said, hoping that would deter future offenders. “The law must punish them.”
However, when asked about preventative steps the authorities could take, he deflected.
“We cannot avoid this kind of crime; it happens even in other countries, like England,” he said. “We are not living in heaven.”
However, the killing, and many others like it, followed reports from Sok Lean to local officials and police that her husband was violent and threatening towards her. When notified, local officials made Phou promise to end the violence and to stop “sharpening his machete”, but took no legal action.
Thida Khus, executive director of women’s rights group Silaka, said this latest case, like too many others, had “not caught the attention of the local authorities that the whole family is in danger”.
“Not enough action is being done to prevent this,” she said. “Prevention is better than letting it happen.”
“I think there needs to be a lot more sensitivity to the situation, not just arrests, but seeking help, counselling, and security houses for the family and [to protect] the life of the children.”
She urged authorities to intervene earlier, stressing that families did not know where to turn, and added that a critical shortage of social workers limited options of victims.
“There has to be some consequences for the people in charge,” she said.
Phou, meanwhile, continued to evade arrest late Tuesday, according to the Child Protection Unit’s James McCabe.
“Investigations are ongoing and all available resources are being utilised in cooperation with multiple policing agencies,” he said.