Tycoon’s Domestic Violence Case Reaches Police as Oknha Title Revoked

3 min read
Duong Chhay gestures during a charity event in October 2020, in this photograph posted to his Facebook page.

The case of a tycoon’s domestic violence against his ex-wife, caught on home security cameras and shared online, is now in the hands of Phnom Penh Municipal Police as the man’s “oknha” title was revoked on Thursday by royal decree.

Deth Malina, a cosmetics entrepreneur, this week posted an hourlong video of ex-husband Duong Chhay, a property tycoon and son of businessman Duong Ngieb, attacking her in their home.

She is seen being dragged by Chhay with an arm around her neck, and being hit as a child stands between them.

Chhay took to Facebook on Tuesday to explain his actions, saying a “third party” must be behind his ex-wife divorcing him and coming forward about the abuse.

“For a woman, if there is no one behind, there is not strong enough support, [she] cannot do such a thing, brothers,” he said.

On Thursday, National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said the municipal court had in the last couple of days received a complaint about the abuse and the case was handed over to Phnom Penh police.

Kim Khoeun said that despite the video being widely shared, police had needed to wait for cooperation from the victim, so she could be a witness and plaintiff. To make an arrest, police also needed approval from a prosecutor, he added.

“Police have the right” to pursue a case “but we need to have them file a complaint, or who will stand as the plaintiff?” Kim Khoeun said. “I am not washing my hands of the case, but we’ve learned that they have filed a complaint to the court already.”

Municipal police spokesperson San Sokseyha said Phnom Penh officers were working on the case, but declined to comment in detail. Municipal court spokesperson Kuch Kimlong said he did not have any information.

The Women’s Affairs Ministry issued a statement this week condemning the violence and encouraging survivors to contact the ministry and seek legal intervention.

According to the Domestic Violence Law of 2005, the ministry also has the right to act as a legal complainant to intervene in domestic abuse cases.

In a royal decree signed by acting head of state Say Chhum on Thursday, the state removed Chhay’s “oknha” title, a designation handed to businesspeople who make large donations to the government.

Chhay’s father, Ngieb, who held the police rank of lieutenant general as recently as 2019, agreed to give up his own oknha status that year after Prime Minister Hun Sen demanded police and military officials choose between their civil servant and oknha titles, the Khmer Times reported.

Chhay’s Facebook page includes photos of him with Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, and the head of the prime minister’s bodyguard unit, Hing Bun Hieng.

The executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Chak Sopheap, said on Wednesday that revoking Chhay’s title would set a good example for society.

But legal action was needed to bring justice to victims, Sopheap said.

“When there is such a criminal case and there is violence based on gender, it is not until the victims come forward to complain” that action is taken, she said. “Especially the Ministry of Women’s Affairs itself should take the role in contributing to initiating legal proceedings.”

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