Recent cases of brutal crimes against children have raised concerns among citizens in the Kingdom, with some calling for harsher punishments for those found guilty.
On May 29, the bloodied bodies of two children were found by their father at their home in Preah Sihanouk province. A suspect accused of raping one of the children and killing them both was caught by police after he spent four days on the run.
On May 24, a villager in Prey Veng province found the body of a nine-year-old child floating in a pond. Police suspect that the child was killed after she was sexually assaulted.
According to Articles 202 and 505 of the Criminal Code, murder with aggravating circumstances carries a sentence of up to 30 years, while murder accompanied by torture, cruelty and rape carries a life sentence.
Ly Loung, a 55-year-old vendor, yesterday said the recent crimes involving children were cruel.
“I feel the pain even though they’re not my children – I know the feeling of a parent who lost their children to cruelness,” Ms Soung said.
“Please don’t keep a child at home alone. It is not safe for children,” Ms Loung added.
Bun Thyda, a 19-year-old university student, said it is difficult to trust strangers. Thus, parents must closely look after their children and avoid contact with strangers.
“Due to alcohol and drug addiction and poverty, perpetrators dare to commit rape and murder on small children,” Ms Thyda said, adding that she wants to see perpetrators be severely punished.
Hem Sokheang, a 58-year-old homemaker, said many parents leave their children home alone because of work.
“Most of them work far away and they have no choice but to leave their children at home or with relatives,” Ms Sokheang said. “Many parents are poor and have no other choice.”
Phan Samros, a 28-year-old university student, yesterday said the killing of the two children in Preah Sihanouk was a brutal crime.
Mr Samros said the government must strengthen child protection and severely punish those found guilty of crimes against children.
“The crime recently committed against children was serious,” he said. “They were small children, they had bright futures. Why were they killed like this?”
“We hope that this crime will not happen to other children in society,” Mr Samros said, adding that however, due to religious beliefs, Cambodia could not implement the death penalty. “It is difficult for Cambodia because our country obeys Buddha.”
General Yok Sokha, deputy chief of the National Police, said police recently opened a workshop in order to train police officers on how to investigate cases of crimes committed against children.
In addition, Gen Sokha said police officers are trained on how to collect evidence and prepare a case file for court.
“Training will strengthen the abilities of police officers in building cases involving crimes committed against children, this includes strengthening the way officers investigate a suspect’s internet use,” she said. “It will benefit officers who crack down and make arrests on suspected child abusers.”
Nhep Sopheap, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Council for Children, said ministry and NGO officials are currently preparing a strategic national plan to promote children’s rights for 2019 to 2023.
“This is the main strategy to protect children’s rights,” Ms Sopheap said. “We are highlighting challenges to issues regarding children. A working group should find solutions and put it in the national plan.”
However, Mr Hun Sen shifted his stance after he had received legal advice from academics and experts.
“We abolished capital punishment in , so I think what they [experts] said is true,” he said. “There is no walking back on handing a death sentence to someone who was wrongfully convicted.”
“We must strictly implement laws against those who commit rape,” Mr Hun Sen added, noting that a life sentence should be handed to convicted offenders. “If they actually committed the crime, then a life sentence should suffice.”