An Interior Ministry official said it closed a sexual abuse investigation against a Kampong Thom police chief after the accusers did not go to court, defending the ministry for failing to respond to three high-profile sexual assault and harassment cases in the past year.
The police chief, who was merely transferred after allegations of sexual abuse; an oknha going unpunished after a public revelations of domestic abuse; another tycoon accused of attempted rape — the small handful of high-profile cases are unfairly discrediting the police force’s good work, the Interior Ministry said.
The ministry issued a statement on Monday in response to a call from civil society asking that authorities take legal action against the rich and connected, and eliminate impunity in the recent cases.
This year, two tycoons have made headlines for alleged crimes against women: Duong Chhay, whose ex-wife released a video showing apparent abuse; and Heng Sier, whom a university student has accused of attempted rape.
The Interior Ministry, however, said in its statement that authorities always pay attention to cases without discrimination based on social status.
The ministry has taken strict measures against past crimes regardless of the suspect, and there were many former high-ranking officials in prison, the statement said.
Last year, it dealt with 2,940 cases involving 4,276 people, it said. Furthermore, it had disciplined 256 police officers, including expelling 123 of them from the force, it said.
“Based on the above result, raising two or three cases of crime or misconduct to evaluate the whole hard work of the competent authorities and law enforcement amounts to only seeing a small angle that doesn’t reflect the reality in society,” the statement said.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said on Tuesday that NGOs were dissatisfied about a small number of cases, including Ouk Kosal, the former Kampong Thom provincial police chief.
Kosal was last year accused of pressuring female subordinates to masturbate him in his office, touching their breasts and genitals, and threatening them to tell no one or face unspecified problems, according to an unverified complaint letter signed by six women and leaked to reporters.
Sopheak said Kosal’s case was closed, and the former police chief now worked at the Interior Ministry.
“The solution comes through the law, and the law said like this so what more can we do?” he said. “The women did not come [to court] and they did not want it.”
“We have handled thousands of people across the country. They do not praise us and for [just] these three people like Ouk Kosal — the ones who filed the complaint are satisfied with what we have done and said it was enough and appropriate,” he added. “When they hate someone, they want to press down to drown them.”
There were about 40 NGOs complaining out of 5,000 in the country, and they were raising the issues to satisfy their foreign donors, he said.
Licadho monitoring manager Am Sam Ath said people just wanted to see action on the high-profile cases, especially when they are against women.
“The cases we have raised are just examples that the public are waiting for the authorities’ action,” Sam Ath said, adding that cases can be swept under the rug through negotiations. “We do not want to see continuing criticism about this issue.”
Since last year, at least 10 incidents involving 20 police officials have been reported for violence, alleged sexual abuse, extortion and other potential misconduct.
Cases in the past couple of years include Eav Chamroeun, a former Kandal police chief, removed over alleged bribery, and who now works as the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department deputy director, according to an official document; Kandal deputy police chief Sreng Sokha, suspended last year over suspected land grabbing; Thlang Phinra, anti-terrorism bureau chief suspended for pulling out a gun while drunk at a duck-soup restaurant during Pchum Ben; Hin Sok Kheng, a Takeo deputy police chief investigated over alleged extortion; and Hak Ly, a Phnom Penh anti-trafficking police officer who threatened a KTV owner and sued her son for posting a video online of the violent episode.