Prosecutors agreed to delay questioning of Duong Chhay — a tycoon caught on film beating his wife — for an undisclosed period of time while he serves as a monk, according to the Phnom Penh police.
Phnom Penh police chief Sar Thet said Chhay’s lawyer requested that questioning be delayed after Chhay became a monk on March 21. According to Thet, the request was granted.
“Now the prosecutor gives him time to be a monk,” said Thet.
“We wait to implement [questioning] following the court prosecutor’s order. We will do what the order tells us to do,” Thet said.
Police were initially ordered to question Chhay after his ex-wife, Deth Malina, posted a video on her Facebook page on March 15 showing Chhay assaulting her on several occasions. Police said before they could bring him in for questioning, Chhay joined the monkhood — though neither they nor court officials have explained why that made him ineligible to be questioned.
Kuch Kimlong, spokesman for the Phnom Penh municipal court confirmed the “case was sent to police officials to investigate.” He said he didn’t know about the prosecutors granting a delay, but would check on the information.
It’s unclear how Chhay was granted permission to join the monkhood. Khim Sorn, chief of the secretariat of the Mohanikaya Monk Order of Cambodia said that before anyone becomes a monk, the religious authorities will ask the local authorities whether that individual faces any outstanding criminal charges or investigations.
“If he [Chhay] had issues related with any crimes, the monk would not allow him to join the monk-hood,” Sorn said. But he said perhaps an authority could have granted him special permission to join despite the court complaint.
He added that he thought Chhay likely intended to become a monk just for a short time, so the law could be implemented upon his departure.
Malina filed a court complaint days after posting a video to her Facebook page compiled of CCTV footage filmed in the couple’s home on several occasions over the course of last year. The disturbing video shows Chhay dragging Malina across the ground, hitting her, and kicking her – at times with a child in the way — while other adults attempt to intervene. She wrote that she had posted the video amid 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 domestic violence remains endemic but is rarely addressed through legal avenues.
“Most of them do [domestic violence] based on the habit — even if they are in a rich family or high position… they follow this completely wrong habit,” Sopheap said.
She noted that in the case of Chhay, there were critical reactions from Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as other top government leaders — but still there hadn’t been legal recourse.
“I request the government to push for the law to be enforced to solve that problem,” she said. “If they do not solve it based on the law and they allow the people to abuse the law, it could reach the society become anarchy.”
Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC), said it was rare that women brought domestic violence cases to the courts, with many having little faith in the judiciary to find justice or assistance for them.
“The women need to be brave to find the justice because sometimes some women when they were beaten, they still do not dare because maybe they do not believe in the intervention and justice system,” Panhavichetr said. “I encourage women to do it,” she said, urging that police act proactively to aid survivors when they file complaints.