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Tragedy’s aftermath in Svay Rieng

Tragedy’s aftermath in Svay Rieng

Svay Rieng province
TEN police officers were stationed outside Suon Sopheaktra’s room at Svay Rieng provincial hospital on Friday, and 10 doctors had been tasked with monitoring his condition.

“Uncle Nang stabbed my grandmother in the neck, and then he stabbed me in the stomach, back and shoulder,” Suon Sopheaktra said, struggling to stay conscious as he lay on his hospital bed.

“I only survived by hiding under the bed.”
Doctors expect the 13-year-old, from Svay Rieng’s Svay Chrom commune, to make a full recovery from his injuries. For many in the community, however, the scars from last Thursday’s events may well be indelible.

Police say Suon Sopheaktra’s uncle, 35-year-old Kouch Samnang, murdered five family members on Thursday morning and injured three others before taking his own life. Neighbours and relatives say that in the days since, they have struggled to make sense of the crime.

Kouch Samnang killed his mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law and his wife before finally murdering his 2-year-old son, said Suon Sopheaktra. The man’s 16-year-old sister-in-law and 3-year-old daughter were also seriously injured.

“He asked his 3-year-old daughter to forgive him, and then he threw her against the wall,” Suon Sopheaktra said.

Svay Rieng provincial police chief Prach Rim said last week that the violence had apparently begun when Kouch Samnang was prevented from raping Srey Mab, the 16-year-old sister-in-law whom he had sexually assaulted twice before.

After the attacks, Suon Sopheaktra said, Kouch Samnang went to wash in a pond behind the house before returning and hanging himself.

The 3-year-old was sent to the capital’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital for treatment after the attack, a relative said, and the 16-year-old is recovering at Calmette Hospital.

An unlikely setting
Svay Chrom’s Thmor Sar village, a quiet community where homes are shaded by mango trees, seems an incongruous setting for a tale of horrific violence. Sitting outside the home where her mother and three sisters were killed, 36-year-old Sin Chandy said tearfully that she was still trying to process what she had seen inside.

“On Thursday morning, I couldn’t contact any of my sisters or my mother, so I decided to drive my motorbike to the house,” Sin Chandy said.
She arrived to find the doors locked, so she had to call a neighbour to climb through an upstairs window and let her inside.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said, recalling the moment she stepped through the door to find the floors soaked with blood. “I just fell down on my knees and started crying. I never thought that this could happen to my family, because we’ve never had a problem with anyone.”

Sin Chandy said her mother, 60-year-old Chea Sokhum, had travelled to Svay Rieng from Siem Reap province after Kouch Samnang first raped his sister-in-law.

“My mother asked Nang to move to Kampong Speu with his wife, but his wife did not want to go, so my mother asked her to come to Siem Reap until she felt better,” Sin Chandy said. A complaint was not filed after the rape because it was deemed a “family problem”, she said.

Despite these issues, the family seemed calm and friendly, said Prak Dara, a village resident.

“I could not believe this when I heard the news,” he said. “Who would dare try to kill his son and daughter?”

Kouch Samnang was initially buried without ceremony in a rice field about 200 metres from the home. On Friday, however, local residents dug up his corpse and moved it another 400 metres away because they did not want an “evil ghost” in their midst, Sin Chandy said. She said that the home was to be dismantled after funeral services for the victims to ensure that Kouch Samnang’s ghost would not return.

Another Thmor Sar resident, 52-year-old Pring Sokha, said even that ignominious treatment was more than Kouch Samnang deserved.

“That man should not be allowed to be buried – he should be hung from a tree and eaten by animals,” he said.

“I cannot find the words to describe what he did.”

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