About 200 people gathered in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Sunday demanding the release of two women who were arrested last week for allegedly chaining up their 13-year-old niece and selling her for sex.
Protesters called for Chea Tina and Chea Sros, both currently being held at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, to be allowed to continue caring for their children, with some blaming the teenage girl for the brutal treatment she was allegedly subjected to.
“She left home for three or four days without coming back sometimes. She was not a good girl, so her aunties punished her,” the women’s sister, Chea Sopheap, told local newspaper Koh Santepheap.
The chief of the National Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department Keo Thea yesterday rejected any defence of the women’s actions, which he called “a form of torture”.
The pair are accused of chaining the teenager up and forcing her to have sex with a third defendant, Chhim Chhaily, who allegedly paid the women $1,000 to rape the girl last year.
Last week, the victim approached police, having reportedly escaped her confinement after her two aunts tried to force her to have sex with the same man again.
Video of the Chraing Chamreh 1 commune apartment where her imprisonment allegedly took place released by police on the day of the arrests showed what were purportedly the chains used to hold her.
Sunday’s protest occurred despite the two women reportedly confessing to the crimes.
“They have admitted that they shackled the child and forced her to have sex,” said Russey Keo Deputy Governor Ly Rozamy yesterday.
Rozamy, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, went on to suggest that the protest was orchestrated to curry favour in the community by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who she said had contacted her demanding evidence about the case.
However, Chraing Chamreh 1 commune chief Sen Min, a CNRP member, denied the claim, saying he had only contacted Rozamy to ascertain where one of the defendants was, as her husband had approached him seeking her whereabouts.
“I do not know which party the protesters come from, but we [the CNRP] have not gathered them,” he said.
The two aunts face charges of confinement and coercing a child into prostitution, and face sentences of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $2,500.
The accused rapist faces charges of purchasing sex from a minor and faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a similar fine.