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Rights Group: Cambodia Rape Victims Denied Justice

FILE - Rape victims who never received hearings for allegations pray in front of Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
FILE - Rape victims who never received hearings for allegations pray in front of Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A Cambodian rights group says corruption is responsible for a staggering lack of justice for rape victims.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) says it has reviewed 762 cases of rape allegations between 2012 and 2014, finding a majority of the cases ended without a trial.

“More than half of the cases, which ended before trial, were settled by the payment of compensation to the victim by the suspect, in return for which the victim dropped the criminal complaint,” read the group's press release. “Others ended with marriage between the victim and the suspect or with the victim simply dropping the complaint because of a variety of factors, including poverty and disability.”

According to report released Monday, even closed cases were flawed in many different ways, but they all had corruption in common.

“The cases which closed with a flawed conviction were also varied, many ended with convictions for indecent assault, despite an initial charge by the prosecutor of rape. Others ended with a conviction for rape, but were followed by a sentence that was less than that prescribed by the Criminal Code or by a wholly or partially suspended sentence,” read the LICADHO news release.

Young victims

The report adds that a large majority of the cases involve girls under the age of 18.

Yong Bunly, a father whose 11-year-old daughter was raped in 2010, told VOA she has yet to receive justice. He adds that his daughter has suffered physically and emotionally from the attack.

“[She] could barely walk [and] I want justice for [her],” he said, adding that the man who allegedly raped her is still free.

He said that the man was arrested and convicted, but later was released by the court.

“He is still out of jail though after the verdict,” he said. “The verdict was released on the ninth of April, 2015, that [he] be put in jail for five years and pay my daughter [nearly $10,000] as compensation."


In a statement Monday, LICADHO director Naly Pilorge said corruption is part of a system of injustice that leads to unfair results for rape victims.

“Corruption is everywhere,” she said. “Every time the victim comes into contact with a public official, it is likely that they will have to make a corrupt payment and if the suspect has money he will probably be able to buy his freedom. Sometimes it seems like the authorities don’t care about justice. Instead, rape cases are just a way for them to make money.”

Nap Somaly, Senior Women’s and Children’s Rights Monitor, said the victims also suffer trauma.

“The trauma and suffering experienced by rape victims is so extreme,” she said. “It’s really time that those at the very highest levels of government make the problem of sexual violence against women and children a priority issue.”

Cambodia has been ranked by international groups as one of the most corrupt countries in the region.

A Ministry of Interior spokesman, Khieu Sopheak, declined to comment on the report and referred questions to the national police, who could not be reached for comment.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.