OFFICIALS in Pursat province said yesterday that they were investigating allegations that a 9-year-old girl had been tortured while working as a housemaid for a family in Krakor district’s Anlong Thnout commune.
Ben Sivla, a commune councillor, said the girl’s neighbours reported the case to police and rights workers on Saturday after she fled the house where she lived and worked.
“She ran away from home because her [employers] fought her and accused her of taking their money,” she said.
She said officials had found “many wounds” on the girl’s head, hands, face and back – some of which appeared to have been inflicted with knives and ropes – and that the girl appeared to have been the victim of ongoing abuse.
“She has both new wounds and old wounds on her body,” she said.
She said the girl – who had previously worked for two other families and was sold to her current employers in exchange for 100 kilograms of rice – was being sheltered in an orphanage pending the results of an investigation, which would include interviews with the girl’s former employers.
“We are investigating her case to find out more evidence,” she said. “We don’t know for sure yet which family tortured her seriously.”
Keat Sam Ork, the commune police chief, said the girl’s current employers had denied torturing their young maid but had admitted to beating her after she allegedly stole money from them.
He said investigations were ongoing, and that he did not know whether the girl’s employers would be arrested and charged.
“We can not assume that the house owners fought her when she was wrongly accused, or that the girl took their money; that’s why we have to take time to investigate this case,” he said.
Nget Theavy, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that regardless of whether the girl had stolen money, the owners should be prosecuted for beating a child.
She said the girl’s employers should have found other ways of punishing their maid if she had been stealing from them.
“They have to find other ways to stop her from doing that again besides beating her because she is too small,” she said.
She also noted that it is illegal for a 9-year-old to be employed as a maid, and for people to be sold into labour.
“With her age she has only one duty and that is to study; she does not need to work,” she said.
She said it was the first torture case she was aware of in Pursat province.