Phnom Penh, Cambodia – the Banteay Meanchey provincial court sentenced Khoun Vanna today to five years-imprisonment for rape and attempted rape of underage girls. In addition, the court ordered him to pay 10 million Riel to his two victims.
The accused, a disabled but powerful former military officer, was arrested in April last year after a joint investigation by Cambodian police, child protection organization APLE and another NGO over a long period. His first case was thrown out due to his power, but this time, the victim families received protection and support from APLE. The investigation was difficult because many of the victims’ families were unwilling and scared to complaint against the officer. This complicated the process and resulted in his arrest only taking place two years after the investigation was initiated.
The minimum sentence for rape as well as for attempted rape is seven years. The court, however, used Vanna’s status as a former military officer as a justification to give a sentence below the minimum sentence. Chea Nara, APLE lawyer who represented the victims, said, “This sentencing does not provide any justice to the victims. I believe that the details of the crime permit the court to give the maximum sentence. The fact that Vanna is a former military officer should in my eyes not be used as an excuse to give him a sentence below the minimum sentence.”
Both victims are still heavily traumatized and continue to receive long-term support to deal with their emotional problems. Seila Samleang, Executive Director of APLE said, “Good news is he gets conviction after all the hard work, but to give a sentence below the minimum does not help and may even reverse the recovery process for the victims. It is a shame to see that people in such a high position still receive a special treatment in court.”
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