The Appeals Court ruled Thursday to uphold the decision of a Kampong Cham provincial court sentencing two minors to eight years in prison for the rape of a 7-year-old girl.
The court also upheld a decision that 8 million riel in compensation be paid to the victim by the defendants, Kheng Seang Hay and Chhim Pisey.
The case, which highlights a continued problem of minors sexually assaulting minors, has centered around the age of the boys, not their guilt, because Cambodian law stipulates minors under 14 cannot be imprisoned.
If the two were under 14 years old at the time of the crime, they should not be sentenced to jail, said Touch Chiva, a program manager for Legal Aid of Cambodia, which is defending the boys.
Both courts maintain Kheng Seang Hay was 14 at the time of the crime, in September 2006, but his father, Eng Kheng, says he was 11, a claim corroborated by several documents.
"We have a certificate from the school, police and a birth certificate indicating that [Keng Seang Hay] was 11," Touch Chiva said.
The courts also maintain that Chhim Pisey was 15 at the time of the crime; no one has disputed his age.
Kampong Cham provincial court found the two boys guilty in October 2007, for a rape that occurred in September 2006. The two have been in Kampong Cham prison since the verdict and were not present at Thursday's appeal hearing.
Kin Rourn, 50, mother of the victim, told reporters in a brief statement Thursday the two defendants persuaded her daughter to enter a rubber plantation near her home in Or Raing Ov district, where the crime took place.
Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said Cambodia has seen a number of cases of teenagers below the age of 14 sexually assaulting young girls.
Pornography, drug use and a culture of impunity all contribute to sexual assaults in the countryside, Kek Galabru said.