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Open letter calls for an end to impunity for rich and powerful
PHNOM PENH--A group of NGOs and individuals have signed an open letter asking the government to take action against tycoon Duong Chhay and former Kampong Thom provincial commissioner Ouk Kosal over their treatment of women.
In the letter, 26 NGOs and 50 citizens called on the ministers of Interior, Justice and Women’s Affairs to implement legal measures in cases of violence against women.
This follows a series of prominent cases. Duong Chhay was stripped of his “Oknha” title after being caught on video beating his former wife. Ouk Kosal was demoted from the Ministry of Interior after being sued for sexual harassment.
Another case was of tycoon Heang Sear and presenter of My Tv Mean Pich Rita involving allegations of theft and attempted rape.
The open letter, signed by the citizens and major organizations working to promote women’s rights, said they were disappointed because in previous times authorities did not effectively implement principles of the law on violence and sexual harassment.
The civil society groups believed that law enforcement against perpetrators would show that Cambodia does not tolerate violence against women.
The letter, posted by Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, on her Facebook account, says, “The dismissal, the demotion, and the silence on powerful officials do not provide justice for female victims, and it also creates a culture of impunity.”
Domestic violence, sexual harassment and attempted rape are criminal offenses that should be prosecuted. Moreover, there are more cases where women do not expose their pain due to social and cultural factors, the letter says.
“The correct and fair action of the relevant ministries is to send messages to female victims to regain their confidence and trust in the justice system in Cambodia.”
On the case of Heang Sear and Mean Pich Rita, Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap wrote on his Facebook page that the ministry was following the case closely to ensure that legal action was taken properly.
“The Ministry of Justice calls on the public to remain calm and leave it to the judiciary to carry on with its proceedings,” he wrote.
“To determine which party is at fault, a thorough investigation is needed to find out the true story and facts in both lawsuits.”
Mean Pich Rita was arrested on May 8 after Heang Sear accused her of stealing a smartphone and attempting to stab him. The complaint was filed after a conflict between them in a car in Touk Kork district of Phnom Penh on May 4.
After being detained and questioned for three days, Mean Pich Rita sued Heang Sear for “attempted rape” in the car, claiming for $100,000 in compensation and $10,000 for loss and damage of time and legal services.
The court freed Mean Pich Rita on bail at the request of lawyer Mean Pich Rita, according to the release order on May 13 of Kuoy Sao, Deputy Chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Investigating Judge,
Kuoy Sao said that after reviewing the case file and application, the prosecutors agreed to release the accused on bail.
“Provisional bail does not affect the investigation procedure. Therefore, the court should release the accused on bail under judicial supervision,” Kuoy Sao said.
Adhoc human rights officer Mao Mab said that during the first three months of 2021, there had been significant incidents of violence against women.
There were also cases of violence related to the pandemic such as financial problems, loss of income and debts.
However, Mao Mab said authorities had acted quickly in cases of violence committed by those in power recently, but only if the woman dared to speak out in social media.
“There are many more cases where victims do not dare to reveal their identities publicly,” she said.
Other issues she identified included a lack of protection for female victims and prolonged periods of compensation and threats in which victims are sometimes forced to accept compensation to end the case.
Due to a number of crimes involving individuals with the title of Oknha, the president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy Pa Chanroeun called for criteria to be set for obtaining the title despite the large amounts of money spent on helping society.
For Pa Chanroeun, someone must behave with dignity and high morals to be bestowed with the title by the King.
“If person in a high position commits immorality, injustice, and inhumanity, it will affect not only the person with the title but the institution that requests honors and confers this title as well. Honoring should be done carefully, not only focusing on resources.”
Pa Chanroeun said that if someone with the title was involved in a crime, authorities should carry out a review to decide whether to remove or continue the title to protect the core value of the title as well as the dignity of other people with the title.