No Verdict in Sovann Komar Child Abuse Case as Reinvestigation Ordered

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A photo posted online by orphanage Sovann Komar on February 18, 2019, with colors darkened.
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday announced it was sending back a Johnson & Johnson-linked orphanage’s child abuse case to an investigating judge.

Judge Ly Sok Leng announced the decision in an afternoon session, saying the renewed investigation would search for more information about the alleged victims as well as evidence to place additional charges against the accused.

Sothea Arun, the former director of Sovann Komar, an orphanage set up in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district by late Johnson & Johnson heiress Elizabeth Johnson, faced charges including torture, while three other defendants, caretakers Hun Chenda, Thay Sinuon and Ung Veasna Nimol, were on trial for intentional violence and other charges.

New management took over the orphanage in 2019, two years after Johnson’s death, and accused Arun of corruption and child abuse .

Last month, a lawyer for Sovann Komar also accused the prime minister’s bodyguard unit chief Hing Bun Heang of looking to grab the orphanage’s prime waterfront land, an allegation the general denied.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Tan Keattech, said on Wednesday that he had yet to receive details on the judge’s decision to reinvestigate.

He would discuss appealing the decision with Sovann Komar’s new management, he said, adding that he still hoped for a verdict against the defendants in the future.

“We hope he will make a decision that will bring justice to the victims,” Keattech said.

Defense lawyer Sao Vita could not be reached for comment by phone.

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