Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the complaint filed by women police officers against Kampong Thom police chief Ouk Kosal over sexual harassment did not carry a criminal offence as the complaint concerned administrative work.
Sopheak told The Post on Wednesday that the ministry had formally decided to demote Kosal from major general to colonel.
He stressed that Kosal’s case didn’t carry a criminal offence because the victims didn’t file a criminal complaint against him.
“The victims only filed a complaint about administrative work. The ministry issued a letter demoting him. I think the punishment is appropriate as the offence is serious,” Sopheak said.
He said demotions always drew criticisms and that it was normal. The Kampong Thom police chief’s position will be assumed by Men Ly, the former police chief of Oddar Meanchey province.
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap said in a Facebook post that providing the result of an investigation by the Ministry of Interior had shown transparency and that it had paid greater attention to sexual harassment of subordinate staff.
However, she said the fact that the ministry had just demoted Kosal and did not take further legal action meant it failed to obtain a judicial solution. This, she said, sent a message to the offender that he will get away from the law for his abusive activities.
“Dignity and honour of the victims can be protected by court procedure. Otherwise, it means that all cases of sexual harassment will not be sent to court or get justice for the victims because there are no mechanisms to protect them,” she said.
Gender and Development in Cambodia executive director Ros Sopheap said getting only a demotion was not enough because it showed the decline in standards of social morality.
“Paying attention to upholding social morality is not enough. The person who commits such offences will not learn a lesson. I think before the women decided to file their complaint, it [sexual harassment] happened several times.
“So, the ministry should continue to follow procedures in order that the victims get justice, and gain the confidence of the top leadership,” she said.
Sopheap also urged the Ministry of Women’s Affairs which has a crucial role in legal protection to check on the case because the victims are women.