A Banteay Meanchey deputy village chief is suing a family who accused the official of allegedly raping their underage daughter in February, with health officials now conducting a forensic medical examination months after the alleged incident took place.
Sok Bunny, the deputy Techo Phnom Chhat village chief, has been accused by Vang Sokchea, 44, of allegedly raping her 14-year-old daughter in February. The village official in return has countersued the family for alleged defamation but on grounds unrelated to the alleged rape.
Sokchea, who lives in the Svay Chek district’s Svay Chek commune, said she filed a complaint with village chief Kao Bunthoeun on August 19 alleging Bunny raped her daughter, and demanded compensation of $60,000 and a fair trial.
Sokchea told VOD on Friday that she noticed earlier this year that her daughter was likely having mental health issues and asked the teenager if she was facing any problems. It was only in June that the daughter told Sokchea that Bunny had raped her in February, five months after the alleged incident.
“At that time, she was alone and received a message from Bunny living near [our] house to get money as an excuse to rape the girl. After that, Bunny gave her 50,000 riel and threatened her not to tell her parents and neighbors,” Sokchea said.
Sokchea said the family was poor and her husband had a physical disability and they had crossed the border to beg in Thailand when the rape allegedly occured.
The mother said she had left her daughter in the care of Bunny’s family, who live next door, in the past and never expected him to harm her daughter.
The family then attempted to get their daughter married on August 26 but were prevented from doing so by local officials, including Bunny.
“I also asked how old the girl was, [the mother] said she is 14 years old. So, I said I cannot issue a marriage certificate for them,” said Kao Bunthoeun, the village chief. The chief also claimed that the accused and the girl have exchanged intimate messages with each other since 2019.
Chhum Sambath, who works with the commune administration and deals with women’s and children’s issues, said the teenager had been taken for a physical examination by the police and was informed the results of the examination will be available in a week.
“I had called the provincial police, and they told me that this is their technical [process],” Sambath said.
In the meantime, Bunny has filed a complaint with the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court’s prosecutor’s office alleging that Sokchea had publicly defamed him. The rape and other allegations had been reported by local media outlets.
A summons issued on September 5 requires Sokchea to present herself in court for questioning.
Bunny said on Tuesday that he denied raping the girl and said he loved her as his own child.
He added that his defamation complaint was based on two incidents since last year. In March 2020, he said Sokchea accused him of taking the girl’s phone and blocking the Facebook account of her boyfriend.
The second charge in his lawsuit is related to the allegation that he stopped the August 26 marriage ceremony. He claimed he was not present at the event.
He also refuted charges that he had inappropriate communications with the girl, claiming that he was messaging her to transfer money that the government gave to the girl’s parents because of their disability.
Meas Sa Im, who works on women’s and children’s rights at Adhoc, said the NGO would investigate the matter but was skeptical of what the physical examination would reveal seven months after the purported assault.
“With regards to the autopsy, we need to do it in a short time. If the rape case happened recently … an examination can find some injuries or wounds,” Sa Im said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Meas Sa Im’s position at Adhoc.