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Police probe rape allegation

Police probe rape allegation

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Police are investigating a provincial health official over allegations that he

raped a 15-year-old girl in June in exchange for a promise to get her mother out

of jail.

In an alleged conspiracy between the official and a court

clerk, the girl's 42-year-old mother was jailed illegally in June for owing

50,000 baht to the official. He then told her daughter that if she had sex with

him, he would ensure her mother was freed and the debt canceled.

A sugar cane farmer strains against the current in flooded fields to take his crop to market.

A

provincial monitor of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC), said that Chum

Mongchheng, who is both owner of the Nimit Clinic and a health official in

Banteay Meanchey, lured the girl to a guest-house and raped her.

"The

owner of the clinic came to [the girl], took her by the hand and forced her to

go with him to the guest-house," said Un Bundoeun, monitoring officer for the

CWCC in Banteay Meanchey province. "[He told the girl that] you have to let me

rape you for one night. I will pay you 20,000 baht and ensure your mother's debt

is canceled and that she is released from prison."

Kep Soeun,

investigating judge at the provincial court, said he was investigating the case,

but said it could prove complicated as Mongchheng had told him the girl was not

a virgin and that she had previously taken money for sex.

"If we find

enough evidence against the perpetrator we will issue an arrest warrant to the

police; additionally, her mother will be released if I find no proof that she

cheated the accused out of money," said Soeun.

CWCC's Bundoeun dismissed

Mongchheng's allegations against the girl. She said she had spoken to the girl's

neighbors and that they had told her that she was not involved in prostitution

of any description.

Kuoch Theam, Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy chief

of police in charge of combatting trafficking, said that police had received a

complaint from CWCC seeking the arrest of Mong-chheng on July 25.

"Our

duty is to arrest the alleged perpetrator, but we cannot do it yet since we are

still waiting for an arrest warrant [to be issued] by the court," said

Theam.

He said the number of rape allegations involving teenage girls had

increased in rural areas, and that there had been 18 cases since January in his

area alone. CWCC said that the increase was partly due to a well-founded belief

that perpetrators would escape punishment.

Yi Kosalvathanak, a monitor at

Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc), and Lim Mony, head

of Adhoc's Women's Section, said corruption of local officials meant the law was

not properly enforced. They added that the increased availability of pornography

and the increasing spread of HIV/AIDS also contributed to rising rape

figures.

"Many people are afraid of being infected with HIV and don't

want to go to the brothels. Therefore young teenage girls and women in rural

areas have become a target for sexual misdeeds," said Kosalvathanak.

He

added that another problem with obtaining convictions was that police often

encouraged victims to settle the case with money, instead of going to

court.

CWCC's latest bi-annual report stated that increasing numbers of

women and children in Banteay Meanchey were falling victim to rape, echoing the

pattern around the country.

From May 1999 to April 2001, CWCC helped 41

rape victims, 29 of whom were under-age. It also assisted 372 women who were

victims of violence.

Kosalvathanak said that punishment for rape is

provided by article 33 of the UNTAC Penal Code, which provides for five to ten

years in jail; rape of a minor is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

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