Domestic Abuse Case Against Prosecutor Dropped After Wife Recants

3 min read
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 18, 2021 (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

Phnom Penh police said on Tuesday they have dropped a domestic abuse case against a municipal prosecutor after his wife issued a public letter saying she had exaggerated his abuse.

Heng Mouykea, the wife of Phnom Penh deputy prosecutor Muth Dara, said over the weekend that her husband had beat her and pointed a gun at her head.

Late Monday, however, Mouykea issued a statement saying the couple had merely had an argument that escalated to verbal abuse. Her husband had then grabbed her arm to take her upstairs, and she had spoken out in anger, she said.

“For more than 10 years, he had never behaved like this, to me or my family. It was really hard for me to accept such behavior,” she said. “Regarding the guns and threatening to kill and beating, it did not happen.”

She asked the public for understanding and for an end to the saga.

“Please note that this clarification has not been forced or fabricated to escape from the truth, because this is the truth,” she added.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman San Sokseyha said this would be the end of the case against the deputy prosecutor.

“As we have seen, his wife issued a clarification about the truth,” he said. The case had been dropped before police could investigate, he added.

“When there is no inculpating evidence or a real incident, and his wife makes an announcement, on behalf of law enforcement, we cannot move further.”

High-profile domestic abuse cases have rarely resulted in prosecutions, including against tycoons Duong Chhay and Heng Sier last year. The same issue has been seen in other cases of domestic abuse, where women can face pressure to avoid pursuing prosecutions against their partners.

Bunn Rachana, director of feminist organization Klahaan, said it was a complex issue for women, as family, economic and social pressures weighed on them.

Whether in urban or rural areas, she had often seen women file domestic abuse complaints against their husbands only to ask police a day or two later to release them, Rachana said.

“There have been many factors that push them to make such a decision, firstly family pressures related to their parents, relatives or children who do not want to see the family separate,” she said.

In many families, husbands earn money, and their arrests can also make livelihoods harder, she added.

“In our society, people consider domestic violence as a normal issue between intimate partners. Like our Khmer words say, it is like tooth and tongue. Or plates in a rack,” she said of phrases describing how things that are close together can clash.

“That social concept forces women to tolerate violence,” Rachana said.

Another issue was lack of faith in the justice system, she said. In the past, women who had bruises had reached compromises outside the court system with authorities saying there were only verbal disputes.

“If their husband or partner has reputation and honor, rank or power, their chance to get justice from the judicial system is very small, so that it is a factor in removing their complaints,” she said.

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