Shocking crimes are occasionally committed by youths in Cambodia making the authorities and citizenry take notice. Taking a deeper look at the motivations for these crimes, the experts consulted by The Post said that there are family, educational, peer and social factors all at work when these tragedies occur.
Pheak Seiha, 18, along with two friends ages 17 and 15, were arrested and remanded into custody by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court in April to await trial, and the crime they are accused of committing is particularly heinous.
They allegedly raped and killed a 17-year-old girl in April whom they knew and were friends with. The three suspects have confessed to the police but their case has not yet been fully adjudicated. All of them lived in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samrong town.
Oddar Meanchey provincial deputy police chief in charge of crime Chuon Sour told The Post that at first his officers couldn’t identify the perpetrators after the victim’s body was initially found. The crime was committed at night and there were no witnesses aside from the attackers.
“We spent four days investigating before we were able to identify and arrest the perpetrators. It was apparent given the victim’s situation that this group of suspects were very cruel and she died naked,” he said.
He said that the perpetrators told the police that on April 15 the three of them rode two motorcycles and they picked up the victim and went for a walk with her in Samrong town.
The four of them then went to a dance at Chamkar Chek market in Chamkar Chek village of Samrong town’s O’Smach commune. After the dance finished at about 10pm, they went their separate ways from the victim, but then they found the victim while she was walking and was half-way home.
Because the road was very quiet and there would be no witnesses, they decided to rape her and all three of them did so. Afterwards, afraid that she would tell the police, they took a piece of wood and hit her in the back of her head until she died. They then carried her body to the bank of the stream not far from where she died and went to their respective homes.
“The three of us ambushed the victim on the road while she was walking home alone. At that time, we raped her and we beat her to death because we were afraid she would report us,” Sour quoted one of the attackers as saying in his confession.
Such crimes are uncommon, but when they occur they are shocking to the average person. Do acts like this indicate a decline in the younger generations’ morals?
Chan Ramy, executive director of the Cambodian Youth Network Association, told The Post that we can only see one side of their behaviour due to their brutal actions, but everything has some root cause or causes.
She said that we must examine their family, school and social situations in order to determine what may have gone wrong and find ways to ensure that young people are raised in a manner that turns them into good and productive members of society.
“I think when youths are guilty of actions that violate our norms and values it’s the responsibility of their family, school and community as well. Just attending school regularly isn’t enough. We need to look at their situations at home and what might be influencing them in their environment or through media. Do they have any positive role models? And we need to look at what role drugs, alcohol or previous violence in their lives may have played.
“Sometimes it is not just the problem of the parents beating the children – which is unquestionably a form of violence – but also their verbal abuse of the children,” she said.
Sek Socheat, executive director of the Mindset Development Organisation, said that he felt such crimes were due to a moral deficit in society and sometimes due to poverty and a low level of education in some families.
Socheat added that in addition to the above factors, the implementation of the safe village and commune policy by the government had not achieved what it intended to because the village and commune officials lacked the capacity to achieve the goals of the programme.
“We are encountering youth who have received a good education in terms of knowledge, but lack morality or ethics and live in a disorderly manner like they are sleep-walking or standing or sitting, they have no vision for their future,” he said.
Regarding the implementation of the “safe village and commune policy” put in place by the Ministry of Interior and enforced by the National Police and local authorities, National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said that the policy ensures that villages are free of violence, drug crimes, theft and robberies on a sustainable basis.
“We aren’t claiming that the implementation of this policy is perfect. There isn’t any country in the world that is completely free of all crime, but the goal of the policy is to reduce and eliminate it to the maximum extent possible, basically. We designate a village or commune as “safe” if it has no crimes at all or only a few crimes where the perpetrators have been apprehended, and that is what we base our rankings on,” Kim Khouen said.
Venerable Khim Sorn – deputy chief monk at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh and chief monk of the capital – told The Post that he often saw attempts to morally educate the youth by ministries, state institutions, civil society organizations and even on social media – but to little avail, he said, because moral education must begin at home.
“Young people have always liked to associate with those who are foolish, do evil deeds and enjoy extravagant pleasures, as they seem to be the one’s having all the fun, but they don’t understand that the fun won’t last and it comes at a heavy price.
“We need to try harder to raise them to be good people. As a monk, I want them to at least know the five [Buddhist] precepts in order for them to have the knowledge necessary to become good people,” he said.
He said parents sometimes sacrifice time spent raising their children in order to earn money and raise the living standards of their families, but they end up with children who behave badly and do bad things because they are too busy to focus on them.
“I see young people who are only 10-years-old who know how to drink alcohol already. That isn’t good. Sometimes they cannot finish school and then they can’t earn enough money legally so they go along with the worst of their friends and steal their parent’s property and then if that isn’t enough they begin taking other people’s property as well,” he said.
Khim Sorn said that the parents are the ancestors and the first teachers of children and if the parents educate and discipline the children well they will become good citizens and behave when they go to school and later when they become adults.