Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Verdict in ‘torture’ case

Verdict in ‘torture’ case

Verdict in ‘torture’ case

AN 11-year-old girl who was abused for months after being sold into domestic servitude can begin the long road to rehabilitation after her tormenters were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, an official with the organisation overseeing the girl’s recovery said Sunday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced Meas Nary to 20 years in prison – the maximum under human trafficking laws – for her role in detaining and abusing the girl. The woman’s husband, Var Savoeun, received a 10-year term, and the girl’s “grandmother”, Thoeung Reth, who raised the girl from a young age before giving her to the couple, was sentenced to five years in prison on trafficking charges.

The end, for now, of what was an important but arduous court process for the girl should allow her to close the door on a traumatic part of her life, said Sue Taylor, manager of the psychosocial services department at the NGO Hagar International.

“She doesn’t have to talk about this again in front of everyone,” Taylor said. “It’s a big relief for her to have this all finished. She can start the process of rehabilitation, which we couldn’t do until the court process is finished.”

Friday’s verdict was also a validation of the girl’s suffering, Taylor said.

“The judge believed her, which was very important for her,” she said.

Authorities said the girl had been held captive since 2008, when she was sold into domestic servitude by Thoeung Reth, who told the court she believed she was giving the girl a better life. It wasn’t until October 2009 that police, acting on a tip from a neighbour, freed the girl from a house in Sen Sok district.

They found her body covered with scars, leading police to describe her abuse as “torture”.

In testimony last month, the girl told the court that Meas Nary beat her with pliers, clothes hangers, brooms and whips when she got angry.

On Friday, Judge Chan Madina said it was imperative that Meas Nary face a lengthy prison term for her actions.

“The acts of Meas Nary were inhuman and very cruel,” said the judge, who also awarded the girl 20 million riels (US$4,788) in compensation.

‘Everyone is watching’

Rights groups praised the court’s decision. The lengthy sentencing, said Chan Soveth, a monitor for local rights group Adhoc, “fits with the Cambodian government’s attention to combat human trafficking and torture of underage children.

“This is also a message to tell the international community that buying and selling children to become servants is illegal,” he said. “This is a severe case that everyone is watching.”

The three convicted people have the option of appealing the decision.

The case put a public spotlight on the issue of internal trafficking in the Kingdom. Observers say the closed-door nature of the domestic labour industry makes it difficult for victims of abuse to escape or be discovered.

In 2004, a survey by the Cambodian government and the International Labour Organisation found that there were almost 28,000 children in the capital alone who were working in domestic service.

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release