A 10-year-old girl was removed from the Phnom Penh home of her great-aunt on Friday by juvenile protection police over suspicions of severe child abuse after a neighbor called into a popular radio station to report the girl’s abuse, officials said.
However, it took an intervention by the ABC Radio station, which runs a civic-minded call-in show, before police acted to take the girl into custody, according to station representatives and local officials.
The station initially contacted commune police in Pur Senchey’s Choam Chao commune on Thursday night after receiving a call from a man reporting that a girl in his community was being viciously beaten with an electric cord and stick at that very moment.
Deth Kin, deputy commune police chief, said he went to question Sok Phally, 50, and her alleged victim about the report the next morn*ing. He said he had interviewed the girl in the presence of her great-aunt and she denied having been abused.
“The girl told police she wasn’t hit by her grandmother,” he said, adding that Ms. Phally had admitted to whacking the girl twice with a stick as punishment for playing with fire.
Dy Kach Oudom, a commune police officer, said that although the girl was covered in multiple fresh bruises—as well as scars and carbuncles—police had not at*tempted to investigate further.
“She said she had them from falling down the stairs,” he said, add*ing that police had not inquired about the girl’s scarring because they were “already better.”
Mr. Oudom said police had received multiple complaints about the abuse from neighbors before, but Ms. Phally had been let off with verbal warnings.
Later in the day, however, municipal juvenile protection police visited the house and decided to remove the girl from Ms. Phally’s custody, according to Keo Yean, the chief of Chumpouvoan village, where the woman lives.
Mr. Yean said the police brought the child to the head office of ABC Radio, where they felt she would be well cared for by female staff members.
Khem Vannak, an ABC team member, confirmed last night that the victim was in the care of the station. He said ABC staff had brought the girl to the hospital for treatment.
“The hospital confirmed those wounds on her body didn’t result from falling down, but from beating,” he said. “I have witnesses, and I recorded their testimony.”
Reached Friday, the neighbor who contacted the radio station said he witnessed Ms. Phally beating the girl at around 9 p.m. on Thursday evening.
He added that community mem*bers had known of the abuse for some time, and attempts to involve police had been fruitless.
“This kind of incident has happened so many times already and most of the neighbors have seen it,” said the man, who gave his name only as Vuth. “She wasn’t allowed to leave the house and was not sent to school.”
(soumy@cambodiadaily.com)
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