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Sihanoukville family renewing call for justice over child rape

Sihanoukville family renewing call for justice over child rape

The family of a woman who was raped as a child by a Preah Sihanouk police official in 2010 is still seeking justice from the authorities to punish the missing officer, more than two years since his first conviction.

Three courts convicted Korng Sophat, a provincial police officer, for the rape of the then-11-year-old girl but not before the case had dragged on for nearly five years, despite a complaint having been filed by the family immediately after the assault.

Sentenced in April 2015 to pay $10,000 in compensation and serve five years in prison, Sophat appealed, earning convictions from the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court in January and October of 2016, respectively. Rights group Licadho reported in August 2015 that Sophat continued to work as a police officer after the conviction, having transferred from the immigration police to the central security police.

Licadho representatives were unavailable for comment before press time.

Deputy Provincial Police Chief San Bunthorn maintained police continued to search for Sophat in accordance with an arrest warrant issued in 2016, before adding: “I think he disappeared.”

Bunthorn denied that Sophat worked for the police through 2015, saying that Sophat stopped coming to work after the victim’s family filed a complaint in 2010 and was fired shortly after his superiors found out about the complaint.

With Sophat walking free, the victim’s father, Yun Bunly, requested a copy of the verdict from the Supreme Court on June 9 in order to appeal to the provincial court to seize Sophat’s assets for compensation. According to Bunly, the court has yet to respond.

“We want justice as well as the compensation. I appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene to help us,” he said.

Supreme Court Prosecutor Nov Moneychort could not be reached for comment.

Cheat Sotheary, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, which provided Bunly’s daughter with legal representation, expressed hopelessness over the situation.

Regarding demands for compensation, Sotheary said an Adhoc investigation found that Sophat placed his assets, which include some land in Preah Sihanouk province, in the name of a relative in apparent expectation of renewed demands for compensation. “I hope this family can get justice but I am not hopeful,” she said.

Seila Samleang, executive director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants said the case could send a “confusing message … [that] one who is in a position of authority is sitting above the law”.

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