A television presenter, who alleged a local tycoon of attempted rape, was granted bail by a Phnom Penh court Thursday. The influential businessman sued her for stealing a phone and attacking him, leading to her detention last week.
This case involves Mean Pich Rita, a 20-year-old second-year university student, and presenter on “My TV” and a local tycoon Heng Sier, who is the director of Heng Sreng Hong Construction Import and Export and CamboPura Glass company.
After Mean Pich Rita’s detention was widely criticized on social media, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s legal team agreed to represent her on Wednesday, and she was granted bail Thursday morning, according to her new lawyer, Viroch Sophang.
The lawyer said investigating judge Koy Sao granted bail because there was no evidence to support the detention, even though the judge had remanded her to pre-trial detention 48 hours earlier.
“First, the evidence is not sufficient. Second, it involves my client’s health and safety,” Viroch Sophang said. The lawyer denied allegations that her client stole a phone, stabbed, or injured Heng Sier.
Y Rin, a spokesperson for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, confirmed via Telegram that the judge had decided to release Mean Pich Rita on bail, but declined to provide further details.
According to the Mean Pich Rita’s court complaint, filed on May 11, Heng Sier attempted to sexually assault her in a car on May 4 and pressured her to accompany him to a guesthouse. The complaint said she had to push him aside to escape the car before returning home.
In her complaint, she went on to add that Tuol Kork police detained her from her home last week and was sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning.
A court order published by local media shows that investigating judge Koy Sao ordered the detention of Mean Pich Rita on May 11 for alleged theft and for purportedly stabbing Heng Sier. Mean Pich Rita denied the allegations in her complaint and called for justice.
The case has generated a lot of anger among Cambodian social media users, who have come to support Mean Pich Rita. The hashtag #JusticeFor Yubi, which is her nickname, was trending on Wednesday, with many Facebook users calling for her immediate release and decried the treatment of women who come forward publicly in cases of sexual assault.
Videos were also published on social media that allegedly show CCTV footage of a man exiting a car and running away, after which a woman exits the car with a knife in hand. Another video again purportedly has audio of Mean Pich Rita crying and alleging that someone tried to rape her.
On Thursday, Heng Sier released a letter in local media admitting that he was having a relationship with Mean Pich Rita and that she demanded a large sum of money to end the relationship. He also apologized to his wife and family, but maintained that Pich Rita attempted to injure him.
“She demanded cash, which was an extreme amount for ending a love relationship. This made me unable to fulfill her desire, and I did not expect that she had a knife and would stab me shortly after,” the letter reads.
VOA Khmer could not contact Mean Pich Rita, her family, or Heng Sier on Thursday.
Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that law enforcement officials must take legal action to prove who violated the law in this case, and to end impunity by perpetrators of serious crimes.
“Regarding this gender harassment…most of the suspects are always let out of the legal net. So, we hope that for this case, there will be [real] response to find justice for the victim,” she said.