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Banteay Meanchey: Murder of a Young Girl by a Brothel Owner_

Meach Bunrith is known as the most powerful brothel owner and one of the most abusive pimps in the border town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province, a major point for smuggling goods to and from Thailand.111 He is also thought to be one of the biggest traffickers of women to Thailand, with a network of traffickers operating throughout Cambodia. He is said to have powerful military backing, and off-duty but uniformed gendarmes and soldiers work as armed guards at his brothel.112

On June 17, 1998 Meach Bunrith severely beat Nguyen Thi Poeung, a twenty-four-year-old woman who worked in his brothel. Four days later, she died in a local clinic. On June 25, three prostitutes, one of whom had been previously in touch with the human rights organization Adhoc, escaped from Meach Bunrith's brothel and reported the death of Nguyen Thi Poeung to Poipet police. On June 26, a mixed force of gendarmes, police, military, and militia raided the brothel. Meach Bunrith was arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and transferred to the provincial town of Sisophon for detention in the Banteay Meanchey provincial prison. Twenty-one prostitutes and a woman who worked in the brothel as a cook were found in the raid and allowed to go free; the brothel was then closed.

The raid, brothel closure, and arrest were hailed as a major victory by human rights workers.113 But less than three months later, the provincial court dismissed the case for lack of evidence and freed Meach Bunrith. Soon after hisrelease, Meach Bunrith reopened his brothel.114

In fact, the evidence against Meach Bunrith was overwhelming. Immediately after Meach Bunrith's June 26 arrest, personnel from Military Region Five and the gendarmerie obtained detailed witness statements from more than a dozen women attesting to the fact that they had witnessed the fatal beating.115

They said Meach Bunrith beat Nguyen Thi Poeung after she refused to have sex with customers because she had recently had an abortion. He hit her on her stomach with the flat side of a cleaver, kicked her thigh, and stepped on her abdomen several times, causing her to bleed heavily. He then dragged her to the bathroom, where he dumped her next to the filthy latrine area for the night, where rats and cockroaches ran over her body. Afterwards, she was deprived of medical attention for three days. Meach Bunrith finally took her to a private clinic on June 20, and she died the next day.

One of the women stated in her affidavit to the gendarmes: "I saw Meach Bunrith take a knife to beat the victim's stomach strongly, and he kicked her left thigh. Meach Bunrith warned her not to cry out or shout. None of us dared to help because we were afraid of the pimp. The pimp's brother, Rath, was about to hit her with a water pipe, but Rith said he wanted to do it himself. We sat outside the house. Afterwards she bled a lot."116

Another girl, nineteen, stated: "About ten days ago, Meach Bunrith, the pimp, tortured Poeung, a prostitute. She bled for three or four days until Rith brought her to Serei Mongkul Clinic. She passed away in the clinic on June 21. Meach Bunrith beat her at 11:00 on her stomach and back with [the flat side of] a knife. He pulled her towards the wall and then placed her near the water jar. He turned out the light so that the rats could run across her. The girl became severely ill and lost a lot of blood. Then Rith hired people to bury her. Rith always tortured every girl in the house."117

A seventeen-year-old girl stated: "The incident took place at 11:00 at night when the girl named Poeung in the brothel did not accept guests because she just came back from dancing in the bar. Then Meach Bun Rath rushed to seize and beat her and passed her to the owner Meach Bunrith. After getting her, Meach Bunrith pulled her head and hit her in front of the other twenty-one girls. He used a cleaver and stepped on her abdomen several times which caused injury inside her body and the loss of a lot of blood. At 6 p.m. on June 21 she was sent to Serei Mongkul Clinic in Poipet. She took her last breath at 11:00 that night and was brought to be buried in Bali Lay pagoda."118

Meach Bunrith's version of the story is that Nguyen Thi Poeung was very drunk the evening of June 17, breaking glasses and making too much noise in the dancing bar where she was working, so he had some of the other girls bring her back to the brothel. Once at the brothel she refused to go inside, Meach Bunrith said: "She shouted and lay down in the mud and refused to enter the house. I threatened and hit Poeung but did not cause her to be injured or unconscious. On that day she was so completely drunk that she could not know what was right and what was wrong,and she cried and shouted in the middle of the night, waking up the neighbors. In the morning she was sober and normal." Several days later, he said, Poeung began bleeding after taking traditional medicine for an abortion so Meach Bunrith brought her to the clinic, where she died.119

Despite these testimonies, on September 15, 1998, the investigating judge of the Banteay Meanchey court ordered the charges against Meach Bunrith dismissed, saying the court lacked sufficient evidence and witnesses.120 The prosecutor did not appeal the judge's order. Instead, he explained why he did not charge Meach Bunrith with either intentionally or negligently causing Nguyen's death:

When she arrived home Poeung shouted and was very stubborn and abusive ... Meach Bunrith physically assaulted Poeung in order to restrain her from cursing and being abusive. According to the examination of Meach Bunrith's actions, there was no serious damage to the body of Poeung. The next morning Poeung was sober and the same as usual. On the evening of June 21 Poeung died. But her death was not caused by Meach Bunrith or by his negligence because the evidence shows that when he knew that Poeung was seriously ill he called doctors to treat her at the house and then they sent her to a private clinic...In the clinic Meach Bunrtih took responsibility for her care...Other evidence showed that Poeung had had three abortions. The multiple abortions, including the use of traditional medicine, wrongly prescribed, caused her uterus to break down, causing her death. Therefore Poeung died of her illness.121

After Adhoc and the special representative for human rights in Cambodia expressed their concerns about Meach Bunrith's release, Henrot Raken, prosecutor general of the Appeals Court in Phnom Penh investigated the case.122 On November 16, he instructed the Banteay Meanchey court to reopen the file and prosecute the brothel owner for voluntary manslaughter, battery with injury (under Articles 32 and 41 of the criminal code), and human trafficking, in violation of the Law on the Suppression of Kidnapping, Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings.123

On November 24, a delegation from the Ministry of Justice traveled to Poipet to gather information. The Ministry of Justice delegation concluded that both the judge who ordered the charges dropped, as well as the prosecutor who did not appeal the judge's order had made mistakes in their judgments. Specifically they found that the judge did not make a detailed enough investigation of the case and that the court should have charged Meach Bunrith with assault to cause injury because he had admitted assaulting the victim. In addition Meach Bunrith should have been charged with illegal brothel operation because he admitted during his questioning that he worked as a pimp and brothel owner.124

In an interview with Human Rights Watch in April 1999, Henrot Raken said that he had written letters to the Supreme Court and the minister of justice, informing them that the Banteay Meanchey prosecutor and judge had "evaluated the case wrongly."125 At that time the Banteay Meanchey court had not yet responded to Raken's letter of November1998. Raken recommended that the case be sent to the chief of the Supreme Court, the general prosecutor of the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Council of Magistracy's Disciplinary Council. In April 1999, another delegation from the Ministry of Justice, led by an undersecretary of state, traveled to Banteay Meanchey on a second fact-finding mission.

Despite these interventions from the U.N. special representative for human rights, the Ministry of Justice, Adhoc, and Human Rights Watch,126 as of March 1999 the president of the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, who is acting as investigating judge in this case, admitted that the investigation was at a standstill because no witnesses could be found. He reiterated Bunrith's claim that Nguyen Thi Poeung died as a result of taking traditional medicine for an abortion, rather than the beating by Meach Bunrith.127

He also said that Bunrith would not be charged with operating a brothel even though it was against the law. "If we change the charge to `operating a brothel,' it's an injustice to Bunrith, because there are many brothel owners in Poipet, and many prostitutes as well," the judge said. In order to change the charge from involuntary manslaughter to voluntary, the judge said that there would have to be more evidence forthcoming from local authorities such as the commune chief and production of witnesses by Adhoc.

At the time of the Meach Bunrith's release, Banteay Meanchey Governor Duong Khem alleged that Meach Bunrith had paid about U.S. $4,000 to court officials for his release.128 The investigating judge denied that the court took bribes: "Meach Bunrith was released because we did not have the ability to get more information," he said.129 The judge claimed the whole case was a set-up by the gendarmerie to extort money from the brothel owner. He said the gendarmes detained Meach Bunrith for five days, demanded 18,000 Thai baht (about U.S.$486) and, when he refused, they handed the "suspect" to the court and destroyed the evidence. He claimed that the gendarmes came to the court and told the court to drop the case by saying they produced false information to obtain money from the brothel owner.130

The gendarmes' version of the story, according to sources in Poipet, is that the wife of a high-ranking military official in Poipet offered them 18,000 baht to release Meach Bunrith, but because of the involvement of human rights organizations in the case, they turned it down. Also, a member of the gendarmerie told a source in Poipet that they turned down the bribe because "there wouldn't be enough money to pay off everybody" because of the joint cooperation of militia, military division, gendarmerie, and police in the raid.

In March 1999, an Adhoc staff person said: "I think the case is paralyzed right now because the judge demands that Adhoc find witnesses and the relative of the victim, and we can't find them." Another Adhoc staff member familiar with the case said:

The victim's aunt was afraid. We tried to get her to appeal to the prosecutor general, but she was afraid that Meach Bunrith would kill her. After he was released from jail he had people watching her house — she was afraid and fled to Thailand. This is the difficulty — that the aunt is gone and the other girls all dispersed after temporarily going to a safehouse in Battambang. Meanwhile Bunrithand his backers are still in business.131

The provincial governor said he was also powerless to do anything. "It is the court's affair," he said. "If he was released, he can open his business if he wants."132

Kompong Thom: Summary Executions of Nine Fishermen by Military_
On April 2, 1998 in Kompong Thom province, soldiers from Battalion 15, armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, arrested ten men suspected of cow theft. They were marched to a secluded clearing, where they were tied up, searched, and tortured. When several men tried to escape, the soldiers chased them, shooting one in the back and tripping the others before executing each in turn with at least one bullet to the head at close range. In the chaos, one man was able to escape. He identified the perpetrators to the police and court officials; subsequent police reports and interviews with district military and local officials confirmed that the perpetrators were members of the provincial military. More than a year later, however, none of the perpetrators have been arrested.

The sole survivor, who has been selected as the representative of the widows of the nine other men in a court complaint, said that the group of fishermen had traveled to Stung District, Kompong Thom in order to fish at Sdau lake. Eight soldiers stopped them and asked them where they were going, ordering to see their identification. After searching their bags, the soldiers tied up the men and beat them, demanding to know how many cows they had stolen and where the animals were. "They beat one man more severely, hitting him with their rifle butt, because they thought he was the leader," said the survivor. "They kicked me two times as I was lying on the ground. I felt dizzy but could hear them beating the others." The soldiers began to discuss what to do with the men: "One wanted to take us to Chor Mous Mountain. Another said there was no need to take us so far: they could kill us there and let the fish feed on our bodies."133

When one member of the group attempted to run off, a soldier shot him in the back. Soldiers kicked another man, making him stumble and fall over, and then shot him in the head. "Then they shot my cousin and after that they killed Pho Man," the survivor said. "Everyone was crying and screaming — some were still alive, others were crying in fear." After another member of the group attempted to run off, some of the soldiers ran after him, shooting him also. In the chaos, the survivor took the opportunity to make a run for it himself before stumbling and falling into a swampy area. Two of the soldiers chased after him but could not find him. "They thought I'd run to the south, but I'd run to the north, so they ran back to the group." As he hid he could hear the sounds of the soldiers finishing off the other fishermen. He remained hidden for a while before eventually making his way back home past midnight.

The Kompong Thom Provincial Police investigated the massacre. In a report dated August 20, 1998, the police concluded that members of Navy Battalion 15 responsible for the Chor Mous area had killed the nine people after going on a mission in that area to search for a band of robbers. The report stated: "The above incident was carried out by the military unit Battalion 15 of the Navy. That geographical area is under the control of Battalion 15. Also that area previously had a group of thieves...This is the reason that Battalion 15 committed revenge in violation of the law."134

Local officials told the police that the evening of the massacre they heard radio traffic from military units in the Chor Mous area about the incident: "They said that they had destroyed nine thieves and needed reinforcements from another unit to catch one who ran away."135 District military officials confirmed that they also received radio messages frommilitary in Chor Mous, saying that they had apprehended a group of thieves, killing eight and wounding one.136 That night, local people said, commune officials deployed additional militia to stand watch at a nearby bridge in an effort to apprehend the man who escaped. The next morning, according to commune officials, they asked the local navy commander to radio his forces to leave the Chor Mous area and stop military operations there in order to prevent further armed clashes when the families of the victims went in to retrieve the bodies.137

About two weeks after the incident, a local police chief based near the incident site called the one survivor to the police post in order to interview him about the massacre. "By chance, when I got there, one of the perpetrators was sitting in the police post," said the survivor. "They hadn't arrested him — he just happened to be there, chatting. I'd shaved my head [as part of funeral ceremonies] and quickly covered my face with my scarf. I was so afraid that I was shaking and couldn't control my feelings." He quickly departed, learning later that the man he saw was a friend of the local police chief.138

On April 27, 1998 the police sent their report to the Kompong Thom prosecutor, who prepared a complaint charging "unknown persons" with intentional murder.139 On June 29, 1998 the prosecutor sent the investigating judge the dossier, which included police reports identifying the perpetrators as well as their military unit (Battalion 15). "It's now up to the investigating judge," the prosecutor said. "They know the information about the perpetrators. It's not the prosecutor who issues the arrest warrant, but the investigating judge."140

However, since June 1998 when the dossier reached the investigating judge, there has been virtually no activity on the case, despite complaints filed by the victims' families as well as the Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of human rights groups that conducted an investigation of the incident. While the investigating judge admitted that the massacre was one of the worst crimes committed in Kompong Thom in her memory, she has not actively investigated it. Part of the problem may be concerns about her personal security. "I worry about my safety because the case is connected to the police, local authorities, and military," she said. "The police and commune chief are okay, but the military might be difficult."141

The investigating judge has not interviewed any witnesses other than the one survivor. She has never been to the incident site to interview other witnesses and admitted, "If we go there so long after the incident happened, there are not so many people around who know about it." She said she has repeatedly invited local authorities, military and police from Stung District to travel to the provincial court to be interviewed but that they had ignored her summons.142

While the court could have the local police deliver more strongly worded summonses, court officials have not yet done so. The president of the court gave the following explanation:

The reason is that the witnesses have never returned any of the summonses we have sent to them signed and with their fingerprints, so we don't know if they have ever received them. For this reason, we have not issued the second [more forceful] type of summons. The legal procedure is to ask people to come to give information who are just witnesses, not the perpetrators. If everything goes right, then the investigating judge or prosecutor can press charges and arrest warrants can be issued.143

While there has been virtually no movement on the case since it occurred more than a year ago, the judge said that she will continuing issuing summonses to witnesses each month. "We have not closed the case," she said. "We will continue. I'm trying my best. The case would be resolved if the people came here to give information. Maybe someday I'll go to the police post to ask them, but it's twenty-five kilometers from here."

The court president also affirmed that the case was still open. "But it's a complicated case," he said. "The prosecutor has filed a complaint against `unidentified persons.' So it's like searching for a pebble in the middle of the sea."

Meanwhile, the survivor and the wives of the victims do not understand what is holding up the case. "I went many times to the court," said one of the widows. "All they do is show me the log book to show that the case is not yet resolved." Cradling a small child in her lap, another widow added: "No financial compensation would be enough for me — not even ten million riel. My husband was a good man. I miss him every day. He never stole anything. The perpetrators should be punished for the crime they committed."144

Kompong Speu: Execution of Teenage Boy by Official's Bodyguards_

Before daybreak on the morning of February 23, 1998, three bodyguards for the Kompong Speu provincial governor fatally shot sixteen-year-old Soy Sophea, pumping more than a dozen AK-47 bullets into his body after he scaled the walls of the governor's compound.

A person living near the governor's house said that he was woken up about 3:00 a.m. to hear the sound of running in the governor's compound, following by cries of "Thief, thief!" "I heard fighting in the governor's compound, then [the sound of] beating and someone crying out `Oy! Oy! Don't beat me, I steal only chickens.' About half an hour later I heard many shots."145

Several hours later the boy's sister was told to go identify his body. "He had a bullet wound behind the ear, and there were marks of beating on his neck, like they used an iron bar," she said. "There were black bruises on each arm from being tied up, and also on his face. His middle left finger was broken. There were many bullet wounds and lots of blood in the lower part of his body. From his waist to his knees there were many bullet wounds. Maybe they used a whole box of bullets from an AK-47 [machine gun]."146

An NGO worker familiar with the case said, "It's Khmer tradition to kill a thief upon arrest. However, when they caught the boy they did not shoot him immediately. First he was tortured, and then shot."147

Police reports did not mention any torture but stated that a group of thieves jumped into the governor's compound "in order to steal the governor's property" and that police on duty at the time "shot to death one thief." The police report quoted one of the bodyguards as saying that at 4:35 a.m. he heard a goose honk and a dog bark, and saw a stranger climbing over the governor's wall.

I asked, "Who are you?" but did not get an answer, and the thief ran away. So I fired a shot to intimidate him in order to arrest him. I shouted at the other bodyguards in order to surround the person to find out whether he had a gun or not. I saw his two other associates. We couldn't know if they had guns or not so we decided to shoot at that person because we wanted to insure the safety of the governor.

The police report's conclusion was that Soy Sophea, sixteen, "is a bad person, who along with a number of hisassociates, has done illegal things which affect public order such as stealing chickens, ducks, wood, pigs, and people's belongings."148

More than a year after the killing of Soy Sophea, no charges have been filed, nor has a lawyer been authorized to represent the boy's family. The family filed a complaint with the court and contacted a legal aid organization for assistance. Meanwhile the three bodyguards are reportedly still at work in the provincial town. The prosecutor at the Kompong Speu Court explained the delay: "If the Ministry of Interior doesn't allow us to file charges, then this case is stopped. We wrote a letter in August 1998 to the Ministry of Justice. If they don't respond, we cannot proceed because of Article 51."149

Under Article 51 of the Law on Common Statutes on Civil Servants, until the prosecutor receives authorization from the bodyguards' supervising ministry, which in this case is the Ministry of Interior, charges cannot be filed nor can lawyers be assigned to the case. To date neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Ministry of Interior have responded to a letter sent by the Kompong Speu prosecutor on August 18, 1998 in regard to lifting the immunity provisions of Article 51.150

NGO workers familiar with the case say that local officials in Kompong Speu are reluctant to aggressively push the case. "The prosecutor doesn't dare," said one NGO worker. "The reason for the delay is because this case involves the governor. The court is afraid of the power of the governor."151

The Kompong Speu Court received the case on April 2, 1998 and as of March 1999 said they considered the file still open. The family of Soy Sophea contacted Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC) in April 1998 to request legal assistance. In May 1998, LAC submitted a letter to the court asking for authorization to represent the victim's family. However, until the prosecutor files charges, no lawyer can be officially appointed to the case. "This is common, not to have a lawyer after one year," said Lean Chenda, LAC first vice director.152 In October LAC met with the Kompong Speu prosecutor, who said the case was being held up by Article 51. In February 1999, LAC met with the newly-appointed minister of justice, to see whether progress had been made in the Article 51 request. According to LAC, at that time the minister of justice suggested that the Kompong Speu prosecutor submit a new letter because the initial complaint had been made under the former minister of justice.

A year after the murder of Soy Sophea, his sister told Human Rights Watch: "I have no hope. The case has gone completely quiet. No one has been helpful in pushing this case, because it involves powerful men. The small people don't dare do anything against them. When I go to the provincial office, local government workers encourage me to drop the case. An egg cannot break a stone, they say."

Asked whether she thought the perpetrators should be punished, she said: "It's up to the court to decide; it's up to the law. But in my heart, people who kill others should go to jail — so they can't commit crimes again."153

Takeo: Massacre of Five Family Members by Commune Militiaman_
On the evening of October 1, 1997, a group of people gathered for a family party celebrating Pchum Ben, the Festival of the Ancestors, in the front yard of popular Funcinpec activist Sao Sim in Kirivong District, Takeo. At around 8:00 p.m., Leang Teng, a member of the commune militia, passed by the party and complained about the noise. Earlier he and some of his friends had been seen hiding in the bushes around the house, observing the gathering.154 Sao Sim and his wife invited Leang Teng to join the party but he declined, cursing the group and saying, "You drinkers are dogs." Afraid that something would happen, Sao Sim's wife ran after him, apologizing for the noise and urging him to join the party. Leang Teng refused again and left.155

A few minutes later Leang Teng returned with an AK-47 and opened fire on the guests, systematically aiming and shooting five of them, one after the other. Sao Sim and two of his nephews were killed instantly. Another nephew named Ben Thy and Sao Sim's son were seriously injured.156 Leang Teng continued to shoot into the house destroying plates, glasses, crockery and bottles, before leaving. Neighbors and relatives carried the two surviving victims into a nearby house. While they were caring for the victims, an accomplice of Leang Teng threw a grenade into that house, but it did not explode. The two injured people were then carried out of the house in order to transport them by car to the hospital. Leang Teng threw a second grenade into the group, killing Sao Sim's injured son and injuring an additional five people.157

After the grenade explosion, one of the wounded, Ben Thy was still alive. He lay on the ground screaming for help. The family was too frightened to assist him, terrified that another grenade would be thrown. Ben Thy was left bleeding on the road, alone and unattended until he died about two hours later.158

The commune authorities were immediately notified but did nothing to intervene.159 One of Sao Sim's sons who survived the attack said that about half an hour after Ben Thy died the police arrived on the scene. "They looked at the dead bodies and left," he said. "The pigs rooted around the dead bodies and ate the intestines. We could only watch — we hid because we were afraid the shooting would continue. Their lives were not important; they died like animals."160

Although witnesses provided the names of the perpetrators to the commune authorities and the police, Leang Teng spent the two days after the massacre in his house in the village, where he reportedly displayed confidence that nothing would happen to him. No effort was made to arrest him during that time, despite the fact that his responsibility for the killings as well as his whereabouts were widely known.161 Sao Sim's wife said, "The day after the killings, the police came to pay a visit. They just looked at the bodies. They were rude and didn't say anything. They asked questions of some people but not the victims. Then they took some photographs and left. We never saw the policeagain."162

After several days, Leang Teng left the village and went to stay with relatives in another district before reportedly moving to the base of Battalion 44 in Kompong Speu province for protection.163 Takeo Deputy Police Commissioner Kim Sokhon said that by the time the provincial police arrived in the village, Leang Teng was gone. "The place is far from here [the provincial town], so he had the opportunity to escape," he said. "We heard that he went to hide at the military base of Battalion 44 in Kompong Speu, but when we got there he'd left already."164 In April 1999, the provincial police alleged that Leang Teng was then stationed as a soldier in Anlong Veng in the northwest — too far away for them to investigate. However, other sources in Takeo reported that as of April 1999 Leang Teng was living under the protection of the military at a base in Takeo. These reports could not be confirmed.

The provincial prosecutor received the case on November 21, 1997 and forwarded it to the investigating judge on December 2. The next day the court issued a warrant for the arrest of Leang Teng and one of his accomplices on charges of intentional killing. Court officials said that the gendarmerie were unable — or unwilling — to carry out the arrest warrant so the court re-issued it the same day to the provincial police. "We don't believe or trust the gendarmerie and the commander of the provincial military," a Takeo court official said. "So we passed the arrest warrant to the provincial police commander."165

The motives for the killing — described by the U.N. as a premeditated massacre — are thought to have been political because all five victims were affiliated with the Funcinpec party, and Sao Sim was a popular Funcinpec activist in the commune who had worked for the party for years.166 A year and a half later, Sao Sim's family expressed fears for their safety. "Since my father's death I don't dare to speak out. I have to be quiet; I have to wear a Cambodian Peoples' Party t-shirt," said his son.167

Takeo court officials say it would help the case if Sao Sim's family cooperated more with local officials. "The court and the police all agree that the family of the victim should come to the court," said the acting president of the Takeo court. "The investigating judge has invited them many times, but they don't come. I think it's because they don't trust the court, or maybe they are afraid. Mostly it seems they are afraid for their security. Even me, I'm afraid — for all cases if they are like this one. This case is very difficult."168

A year and a half after the massacre, no arrest has been carried out, despite the fact that the identity of at least two of the perpetrators is known. For Sao Sim's family, however, memories of the massacre are still fresh. "To say I feel sorry about what happened to us is meaningless," said Sao Sim's son in April 1999. "There's no word to describe how sad I feel. I think about this every day, all the time. I want justice, but we must keep quiet. We've lost five family members already. We must keep quiet so that the rest of my family stays alive."169

111 Adhoc interviewed one young woman who tried to escape from Meach Bunrith's brothel several times. She said Meach Bunrith had photographs of all the girls and a network in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Phnom Penh to try to track down the ones who escape. "When they caught this woman the second time they beat her, hit her head, and cut and shaved her hair," an Adhoc investigator said. "They also kicked, slapped and hit her and used offensive language to curse her everyday. After the torture they did not give her enough food and charged her $100 to buy a wig so that she could return to work. When we met her, she cried and begged for help from us. She said there were fifty others who wanted to get out also, who had been tortured. Some had been sold by their parents or neighbors, some came voluntarily. But when they threatened and beat the girls, even the ones who volunteered wanted to leave." "Complaint of [victim's name] to Chief of Adhoc Banteay Meanchey," June 17, 1998; and Human Rights Watch interview with Adhoc worker, Phnom Penh, March 12, 1999.

112 Human Rights Watch interviews with local officials, international and local NGOs in Poipet and Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey, April 4-5, 1999.

113 See the Report of the Special Representative on Human Rights in Cambodia to the U.N. General Assembly, September 17, 1998; Kay Johnson and Touch Rotha, "Alleged Brothel Killer's Release Draws Outrage," Cambodia Daily, October 20, 1998; Raesmey Kampuchea, "Liberation of 20 `Fresh Meat' Girls from Hell," June 1998.

114 Since his release from prison, at least one woman has filed a complaint with the provincial military against Meach Bunrith, charging in February 1999 that he had forced her to work as a prostitute, detained her against her will, and tortured her. Dated February 14, 1999, the complaint was filed with the commander of Military Region Five and commander of Military Unit at Poipet.

115 Interview notes, Investigation Unit, Military Region Five, June 1998; Individual witness statements and thumbprinted petition from twenty-two witnesses to Banteay Meanchey military police, June 1998. Five witnesses interviewed by Military Region Five said in a group statement that Nguyen Thi Poeung's death was not caused by illness: "We five saw with our eyes that Meach Bunrith the brothel owner hit Poeung with a knife and water pipe and kicked her abdomen. After Poeung fell down, Meach Bunrith stepped on her abdomen, which caused her to lose a lot of blood from the vagina and mouth... Meach Bunrith was preparing a plan to collect all the girls from his brothel to cross the border to Thailand on June 25, 1998. We didn't know what the reason was. Please help us find justice."

116 Witness statement to Banteay Meanchey gendarmerie, June 1998.

117 Witness statement to Banteay Meanchey gendarmerie, June 1998.

118 Witness statement to Banteay Meanchey gendarmerie, June 1998.

119 "Request for Examination," No. 352, Banteay Meanchey investigating judge, September 14, 1998.

120 Court documents by the investigating judge ("Request for Examination," dated September 14, 1998) and the prosecutor ( "Order of Final Conclusion," dated September 15, 1998") concluded that there was not enough evidence. On September 15, the investigating judge signed an order dismissing the charges (Nonsuit Order No. 24) and a Release Warrant (No. 30) for Meach Bunrith.

121 Prosecutor's "Order of Final Conclusion," dated September 15, 1998.

122 Letter No 0172/98 from Adhoc to the prosecutor general, October 2, 1998.

123 "Situation of human rights in Cambodia; Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg," Commission on Human Rights, February 26, 1999.

124 Letter to H.E. Minister of Justice from Ith Rady in regard to report on Ministry of Justice mission to Banteay Meanchey, January 6, 1999.

125 Human Rights Watch interview with Henrot Raken, prosecutor general of the Appeals Court, Phnom Penh, April 6, 1999.

126 Letter from Human Rights Watch to Minister of Justice Uk Vithun in regard to the murder of Nguyen Thi Poeung, March 23, 1999.

127 Human Rights Watch interview with Investigating Judge Mam Moeun, Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey, March 5, 1999.

128 Lor Chandara, "Accused Slayer Reopens His Poipet Brothel," Cambodia Daily, December 17, 1998.

129 However, the judge told Human Rights Watch that after Meach Bunrith's release, Bunrith's brother filed a complaint with the court, charging that someone had fraudulently taken 20,000 baht (about U.S. $540) from his family in order to bribe the court but kept the money instead. Human Rights Watch interview with Investigating Judge Mam Moeun, Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey, March 5, 1999.

130 Human Rights Watch interview with Investigating Judge Mam Moeun, Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey, March 5, 1999.

131 Human Rights Watch interview with Adhoc staff persons, Phnom Penh, March, 1999.

132 Lor Chandara, "Accused Slayer Reopens His Poipet Brothel," Cambodia Daily, December 17, 1998.

133 Human Rights Watch interview with survivor, Kompong Thom province, March 26, 1999.

134 Report of Kompong Thom Provincial Police Station, Serious Penal Office, August 20, 1998.

135 Report of Kompong Thom Provincial Police Station, Serious Penal Office, August 20, 1998.

136 Interview with rights workers, Kompong Thom province, April 6, 1998.

137 Report of Kompong Thom Provincial Police Station, Serious Penal Office, August 20, 1998.

138 Human Rights Watch interview with survivor, Kompong Thom, March 26, 1999.

139 Human Rights Watch interview with Kompong Thom court staff, March 25, 1999, Kompong Thom provincial town; Prosecutor's Order of Final Conclusion, No. 22, June 23, 1998.

140 Human Rights Watch interview with Kompong Thom prosecutor, March 25, 1999.

141 Human Rights Watch interview with Kompong Thom court staff, March 25, 1999, Kompong Thom provincial town.

142 Human Rights Watch interview with Kompong Thom court staff, March 25, 1999, Kompong Thom provincial town.

143 Human Rights Watch interview with Kompong Thom court staff, March 25, 1999, Kompong Thom provincial town.

144 Human Rights Watch interview with widows of the massacre, Kompong Thom province, March 26, 1999.

145 Witness statement to NGO Workers, Kompong Speu, June 17, 1998.

146 Human Rights Watch interview with Soy Sophea's sister, Kompong Speu, March 12, 1999.

147 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker, Phnom Penh, March 1999.

148 Report from Chbar Mon District Inspection Police Station to Chief of Penal Office, Kompong Speu, February 23,1999; Report from Kompong Speu Police Station No. 035/98, March 6, 1998; Report by Group of Bodyguards of Governor's House to Kompong Speu Police Commissioner, undated.

149 Human Rights Watch interview with prosecutor Ven Yoeun, Kompong Speu, March 12, 1999.

150 Letter from Kompong Speu prosecutor to the Co-Ministers of the Interior through the Ministry of Justice, August 18, 1998. The letter states: "By finding that this action is a criminal offense, which should be sentenced under Article 32 of the criminal code, and referring to Article 51 of the Law on Common Statutes on Civil Servants, we request authorization for the prosecutor to charged based on legal criminal procedures against those three men."

151 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker, Phnom Penh, March 1999.

152 Human Rights Watch interview with Lean Chenda, first vice director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, March 9, 1999.

153 Human Rights Watch interview with Soy Sophea's sister, Kompong Speu, March 12, 1999.

154 Human Rights Watch interview with witnesses to the killings, Kirivong District, Takeo; Takeo Province Police Report, Office of Criminal Justice, Penal Office No. 050/1, October 3, 1997.

155 Police Report No. 029/03, Kirivong Police Station, Takeo, October 2, 1998.

156 Human Rights Watch interview with witnesses to the shooting, Kirivong District, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

157 Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998; Human Rights Watch interview with witnesses to the killings, Kirivong District, Takeo, April 1999.

158 Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998.

159 Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998.

160 Human Rights Watch interview with Sao Sim's son, Kirivong District, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

161 Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998; Human Rights Watch interview with witnesses, Kirivong District, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

162 Human Rights Watch interview with Sao Sim's wife, Kirivong District, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

163 Human Rights Watch interviews with provincial police in Takeo Provincial town and villagers in Trayung village, April 1999; See Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998.

164 Human Rights Watch interview with provincial police, Takeo Provincial town, Takeo province, April 8, 1999.

165 Human Rights Watch interview with provincial court staff, Takeo, April 8, 1999; Arrest Warrant No. 38.39/97, December 3, 1997.

166 Human Rights Watch interview with deputy chief of the Judicial Police, Takeo provincial town, April 8, 1999; Memorandum to the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, May 13, 1998.

167 Human Rights Watch interview with Sao Sim's son, Kirivong district, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

168 Human Rights Watch interview with the acting president of the Takeo court, Takeo provincial town, April 8, 1999.

169 Human Rights Watch interview with Sao Sim's son, Kirivong district, Takeo, April 8, 1999.

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