Rights groups have called for an immediate investigation into sexual misconduct accusations leveled against Kampong Thom Police Chief Ouk Kosal by four female officers.
The four officers wrote a letter addressed to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on July 30 accusing Ouk Kosal of physical assaulting them. The assault accusations include inappropriate touching and non-penetrative sex acts.
The women allege they were threatened by the police chief to keep the alleged assault secret or risk repercussions, such as losing out on promotions. All four women signed the document.
“We were afraid of his power as a commissioner,” reads the letter. “On the other hand, he threatened us to not to reveal what he did. If you we dared, he said there would be a problem.”
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said officials for the ministry’s staff department, led by department director Chan Ian, were investigating the matter. He did not provide any additional details of the investigation.
“The ministry is assigning technical officials to investigate the matter,” he said.
VOA Khmer could not contact Chan Ian or Ouk Kosal for comment on Tuesday. Reporters were unable to contact the four police officers.
In the letter, the four women claimed to have gone to the ministry to raise their accusations against Ouk Kosal and that they were aware other women who had faced similar situations.
Yov Sengkun, administrative director for Kampong Thom provincial government, denied the accusations and supported Ouk Kosal by rejecting calls to investigate the police chief.
“I have never heard of that information before, and [Ouk Kosal’s] attitude and performance has never been that way,” he said.
Bunn Rachana, director of Klahaan NGO, which works to promote women’s rights, praised the courage of the female police officers for exposing the harassment they faced at the hands of the police commissioner.
She said the provincial court should take note of the complaint forward and investigate the accusations made by the women officers.
“The government, the judiciary, as well as the Ministry of Interior, must take serious and urgent measures to conduct a thorough investigation to provide justice to all parties involved,” she added.
Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the handling of this case would reveal the administration’s attitude towards addressing serious accusations linked to women’s rights issues.
“I also hope that individuals who claim to support the preservation of dignity of women will join in demanding and providing justice to all women who have suffered as a result of this case,” she wrote in a social media post.
The government has courted controversy with its handling of women’s rights issues this year. An online seller was convicted in April for allegedly wearing revealing clothes, after Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed that revealing clothing worn by women sellers diminished Khmer culture and traditions, and resulted in assault and trafficking.
The government is also working on a draft public order law which looks to penalize women for wearing “see-through” or “revealing” clothing. The draft law has been panned by Cambodian women and activists as another attempt to police women’s bodies.