Police are hunting a man who allegedly raped an 8-year-old girl in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei district after leading her and eight school friends into the forest under the guise of protecting them.
According to Mongkol Borei district police officer Si Savy, the man approached the group about 2pm last Tuesday as they were riding bicycles home from school.
His face hidden by a mask, the suspect told the seven girls and two boys, aged between 7 and 8, that they needed to follow him, as robbers were waiting further along.
“He told the children to hide in the forest nearby, about 15 metres from the road,” Savy said. “He told them to take off their clothes and sleep on the ground and close their eyes.”
The man, thought to be in his early twenties or late teens and described as thin, then raped the 8-year-old victim before escaping on a motorbike, Savy said.
“They were afraid of the suspect and the robbers, so they did what they were told to,” he said. “The victim and other children went home and told their parents about what happened, but did not recognise the suspect because he wore a double mask on his face.”
Enraged families have since filed a complaint demanding police action.
Mongkol Borei district deputy police chief Ngoun He said yesterday that efforts were being coordinated across several districts to track the man.
“We are searching for his motorbike, and suspect he may live in the same commune as the children or one nearby,” he said.
He moved to try and reassure families – who now fear sending their children to school – that police would catch and punish the man for his “cruel act”.
Phnom Penh’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) is also assisting in the man hunt.
According to the CPU’s most recent figures, the special joint-investigation unit dealt with 221 cases of rape or homicide involving children under the age of 15 last year, including 166 rapes, and three gang rapes.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON