Shocking cases of violence against children and even their murder have seemingly spiked recently, notably the grisly beheading of a six-year-old girl, along with her grandmother, in Kampong Cham province’s Prey Chhor district last week.
In Kampong Chhnang, a man was sent to the provincial court this week for throwing his three-year-old niece onto a pillar and beating her with a length of bamboo, causing her serious injuries.
Members of civil society groups have said a number of factors were involved in such incidents, including decreasing morality and a culture of perceived legal impunity.
Mao Mab, the head of the women and children’s division at rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Tuesday that the murder of children was caused by a combination of declining morality in society, ineffective implementation of the law, poverty and a lack of education.
She said the majority of the Kingdom’s public service announcements and advertisements did not include child protection messages but mostly focused on alcoholic drinks and entertainment. In addition, poverty was another factor leading to violence against children.
“The decrease in social morality is such that we see fathers, grandfathers and other family members [sexually] abusing their children and relatives,” she said.
Ros Sopheap, the executive director of equality group Gender and Development Cambodia (GADC), said offenders often wanted to demonstrate their power and strength in order to intimidate others around them.
Such people had no respect for the law, but violated it believing they would not be punished.
“This culture of perceived impunity must be tackled. I think law enforcement authorities understand this issue. If they didn’t, people would have questions and lose confidence in their leadership,” she said.
Heng Vuthy, the deputy police chief of Kampong Cham province, where the recent beheadings took place, said in regards to child murder, the offender often did not have children as his target, rather the anger was fuelled by revenge against their parents.
“Most of the crimes that happen against children are about revenge. Nobody simply goes and kills a child for no reason,” he said, adding that sometimes a child had insulted someone who then abused them.
He said anyone guilty of murdering a child must be brought to justice. After being arrested, the authorities must follow legal procedure by sending the offender to court.
If the crime was serious, he said, police must endeavour to collect all the evidence and witness testimony they can in the case.
“We must find enough evidence to put the burden of guilt on the suspect so they cannot deny what they did. The court can charge them more seriously with aggravated circumstances if we have enough evidence. So the case should not be closed quickly."
“We should be busy the whole time trying to find all the evidence to support the case. Murder is not a small issue, it is the taking of human life,” he said.
Ngeng Chou, the head of the Ministry of Interior’s criminal police department, declined to comment on the issue, saying he was busy.
Kampong Cham provincial serious crime bureau said a suspect has been detained over the beheading of the six-year-old girl and her grandmother in Prey Chhor district’s Thma Poun commune.
Last Wednesday a 65-year-old woman and her six-year-old granddaughter, both from Thma Poun commune’s Thma Poun village, were found beheaded in a forest about 350m south of their home.
Deputy provincial police chief in charge of serious crimes Heng Vuthy identified the suspect as a 55-year-old from Thma Poun commune’s Trapaing Boeung village.
He said the suspect shared a plantation boundary with the family of the victims.