Two young children were allegedly poisoned and killed by their mother in an attempted murder-suicide at a Kampot guesthouse on Tuesday.
Pak Sokheng, 27, remains under police watch at Kampot Provincial Hospital after she allegedly fatally poisoned her two sons, Heal Sovanami, aged 6, and Heal Kdan, aged 4.
When questioned about the deaths of her children, Sokheng allegedly told police she was “angry” with her husband for taking a “second wife”, according to Keo Yon, deputy chief of Angkor Chey district police.
Sokheng left her home in Takeo’s Traing district on Tuesday and rented a room at a guesthouse in Kampot, Yon said. She allegedly purchased several pills from a local pharmacy, which she mixed into food for herself and her children, though she survived the suicide attempt.
Yon was unsure what drug was used to poison the boys.
“Our police are now guarding the hospital because she is receiving treatment there. We will bring her to the provincial police station to be questioned about the murder,” Yon said.
While Yon said the three were found on the bed after a guesthouse cleaner entered the room, Sou Born, chief of Phnom Kong commune, where they lived, said Sokheng allegedly made a chilling phone call to her husband, in which “she told the husband that she had killed the children and herself”, prompting the man to rush to the guesthouse and call for help.
Born also said the suspect had written an apology note before her attempted suicide.
Accounts also varied as to whether the couple had divorced, or whether Sokheng had just discovered the alleged affair.
The practice of men taking multiple wives is common in Cambodian culture – a double-standard that often has a detrimental effect on women, leaving them financially vulnerable or open to abuse due to stigma, among other things.
Sokheng’s husband briefly visited the hospital and is not being treated as a suspect by police, Yon said.
The double homicide brings the total count of child murders in Cambodia to six so far this year, according to James McCabe, head of the Child Protection Unit.
“Unfortunately this is the second situation [where] we’ve had a mother [allegedly] murder their child this month alone,” McCabe said.
“It hasn’t been a good start to the year as far as homicides and rapes go,” he added, saying the NGO had investigated 30 serious crimes against children so far this month – almost one a day.