Phnom Penh police are still waiting on an order from the prosecutor’s office before they can continue their investigation of accused wife-beater Duong Chhay following the disgraced tycoon’s decision to leave the monkhood on Monday. Police had initially declined to question Chhay, who was caught on camera violently attacking his wife, after the tycoon publicly declared he was entering a monastery.
Phnom Penh police chief Sar Thet said that police officials had finished their initial investigation, during which they had interviewed several witnesses including the plaintiff, Chhay’s now ex-wife. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor had then asked police officials to send the case to court, where the police chief said it has remained for a long time already.
“I am only waiting for the prosecutor’s order before we continue [the investigation],” Mr Thet said.
Mr Thet said that he does not yet know whether Chhay will remain a free man after having left the monkhood. He declined to comment in further detail, referring the question to the prosecutor. Taing Sunlay, director of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, declined to comment on similar grounds.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Chroeng Khmao, as well as deputy prosecutor and spokesman Plang Sophal, could not be reached for comment.
Duong Chhay posted on Facebook that he had left the monkhood on Monday. In the post, he thanked his supporters as well as the clergy and committee of Phnom Penh’s Wat Moni Prasithivong, the pagoda in which he stayed during his time in the monkhood.
Malina filed a court complaint in March after posting a video to her Facebook page of CCTV footage filmed in the couple’s home over the previous year. The video showed Chhay dragging Malina across the ground, hitting her, and kicking her in front of their children while other adults tried to intervene. She wrote that she had posted the video during a custody dispute over the couple’s three children. In another post, on March 19, Malina wrote that she had been beaten “about 100 times.”
Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender And Development for Cambodia (GADC), said that the criminal proceedings against Chhay did not seem to be based on the law.
“Giving him the opportunity to become a monk is not a procedure to stop violence,” Ms Sopheap said. Without following the law, she said, violence against women throughout society could not be eliminated, forcing victims to suffer more while perpetrators continued to hold on to power.
Ny Sokha, head of monitoring at human rights group Adhoc, also criticised the lack of action against Chhay, though he said that he did not have deep knowledge of the case.
“In criminal cases, we cannot become monks to escape the law,” he said.
“Based on the law, we do not think about whether the person is a tycoon or His Excellency,” he added. “But in fact, in Cambodia there are different standards for implementing the law — they always say that poor people or people who have no power cannot escape from punishment, even when they commit a small crime. On the other hand, rich and powerful people can escape from the law.”