Ouk Kalyan studied law at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh. She is passionate about working with vulnerable people and providing them better access to justice. This led her to join IBJ’s team as a lawyer assistant in Battambang in 2012. Before that, she was working for Development Partnership in Action (DPA), an organization that advocates on behalf of Cambodia’s rural poor. In 2014, while continuing to perform her functions as a provincial investigator, Kalyan obtained the Bar Examination. She became the provincial lawyer in charge of DRC 6 in December 2014. She is now responsible to represent accused in criminal case and to provide legal consultations. She conducts legal dissemination sessions in community and in prison.
Dy Oudom replaced her as a Lawyer Assistant and Provincial Investigator, after volunteering during his law studies for IBJ in DRC 6 for more than one year.
Who slept with the Victim?
Women are often vulnerable to violent crimes, especially to sexual assaults. It is true that they need an extra legal protection from such crimes. However, in Cambodia, women sometimes use this protection to get some financial benefits from men. This was what had happened to our client. In 2014, Ben Tep (name changed) was falsely accused, and charged with raping Nari Hun (name changed), a daughter of his neighbor. Ben was arrested and detained in prison. However, with the help of IBJ Cambodia, the judge acquitted him from the charge in January 2015.
In April 2011, Ben was a student in 6th grade. He and his family were living in Auta Praing village in Pailin province, where they have been staying until today. This case started when Nari’s grandmother told her neighbors that Ben had raped her granddaughter. A day later, she filed a complaint to the police. When Ben’s father heard about the news, he visited the village chief, and discussed how to settle the matter. Acting as a mediator, the village chief told Nari to take a forensic examination in a hospital. As the village chief told her, she took the test, however, no genital injury was found on June 22, 2011. Having found no evidence that Ben had raped Nari, the grandmother wanted to pay 150,000 Riels to Ben’s family to settle the matter, and prevent Ben’s family to counterclaim them. Both parties mutually consented to settle the matter, and signed a written agreement with the police. If this case had ended here, Ben would have not had an unpleasant experience in prison and court. Less than two months after the settlement, on August 27, 2011, Nari went to the hospital to have another forensic examination, and a doctor found an injury on her hymen. Having found the injury, Nari’s family filed a complaint to the police again. At that time, Ben was working in Thailand, and was unaware of what was happening in Cambodia. He thought it was over when they signed the settlement agreement. Only on the date of the hearing, on November 11, 2014, he became aware of the indictment. He attended the trial to prove his innocence, and to ask justice to be done in the court. However, the trial judge issued an arrest warrant, and ordered provisional detention till the next hearing. Ben was arrested, and detained for two and a half month in Pailin provincial prison. The next hearing was scheduled on December 22, 2014, however, it was postponed to January 20, 2015.
When he was detained in prison, there were nineteen other prisoners in his cell (2mX8m). When he was detained, he was not scared of the next trial, because he knew he was innocent. However, he became a little bit worried for his case was not represented by a lawyer. One of his cellmates told him that he needed a lawyer to represent a case. None of police and prison officials had told him about his legal rights. Ben’s family realized that they needed a lawyer. Hence, Ben’s father talked to the village chief, and the chief told him about IBJ Cambodia, and its role. This was the moment when IBJ Cambodia stepped into the case.
The IBJ lawyer based in Battambang took the case, and found out that there was no evidence proving that Ben had raped Nari. The lawyer submitted two pieces of evidence during the second trial, which was held on January 20, 2015. The first piece of evidence was the result of the first forensic examination. According to the first forensic examination, there was no genital injury on Nari. And the second piece of evidence was the fact that second forensic examination was taken two month after the first examination. The lawyer claimed that the time period was too long, and argued that it was possible that someone else caused an injury to Nari’s hymen. In fact, Ben was far away from Nari when she took the second examination, therefore, it was impossible that Ben caused the injury on her hymen. The lawyer also asserted the fact that Nari’s family visited Ben’s family, and asked whether they could live on the land of Ben’s family. Based on this fact, the lawyer claimed that Nari’s complaint could have been ill-motivated. The judge accepted the IBJ lawyer’s sound arguments, and decided to acquit Ben on January 20, 2015. He was released on the same day. After the trial, Ben’s family found out that Nari’s grandmother forced her to say that Ben had raped her.
Now, Ben is 18 years old, living with his family in the village. Because of the case, Ben’s life has been changed a lot. He was a student before the incident happened. However, because of the incident, he could not continue his education, and, in fact, he still cannot attend school because his family cannot support him anymore due to some financial problems. His father works as a construction worker, in spite of his disability. Ben also admits that he lost the motivation to attend school because of his experience within the criminal justice system. The time he spent in prison caused a delay in his studies. Now, he is working in a corn field, earning $2.00 per day. Even though the village does not discriminate him, he is suffering from the consequences of an ill-motivated case. After the trial, Nari’s family has moved near to Ben’s family. Because Ben’s family does not want to be involved in a lawsuit anymore, they said that they would sell their house, and move to other area away from Nari’s family.
Ben and his family thank to IBJ Cambodia and the work that the lawyer has done for them. However, they strongly expressed their feeling that justice had to be done to Nari’s family who falsely accused Ben, and made false testimonies during the trial.
Love went in a wrong direction
Few cases received by IBJ lawyers in Cambodia depicts the confusion existing in people’s mind when it comes to use the judicial system due to a lack of knowledge of, and familiarity with, justice processes. This story is about a woman falsely accusing her boyfriend because she believed he did not love her anymore. This situation had a dramatic impact on the defendant’s life. Kosal Vibol (all names are changed), a 21 years old young boxer, was wrongfully charged of raping Sophy Cheata, his girlfriend at the time. Kosal was arrested and detained in prison. However, with the help of IBJ Cambodia, the judge decided to acquit and release him in 2015.
In 2014, Kosal went to Battambang city to meet his friend but stayed up with him too late to catch the last means of transportation available. Helpless, he decided to stay overnight in a bus terminal. Sophy, his girlfriend was working in one of the offices of the bus terminal. She let him in a bus for the night, and stay therein. While he was in the bus, playing with his phone, Sophy came to him, and told him that she wanted to have sex with him. Kosal refused because he had an important boxing competition ahead. He promised her that he would marry her after he won the competition. However, she did not believe him and thought that his refusal was actually a rejection. She thought he did not want to marry her at all, or had another girlfriend. Under emotional stress, she told her brother about it. The angry brother and she decided to report to the police that Kosal had raped her. Kosal was not aware of what was happening to him. Without knowing that she had accused him, Kosal pursued his life and was led to move to Kampong Thom to work as a fisherman, and then to Rattanakiri to work as a taxi driver. When he returned to Battambang to help his father running his farm, he was arrested, and detained in prison.
Fortunately, there was not victim of physical abuse while he was in police custody or in prison. He was detained in prison for 6 months. He stayed with other 18 prisoners in a 4mX4m-sized cell. Neither the police nor prison officers informed him of his legal rights. A court clerk finally did during the investigation stage, and told him about IBJ legal aid services. Having found that he had legal rights protected by the law, he turned to his mother who visited IBJ office in Battambang, and asked for a help.
Before trial, the IBJ lawyer met Sophy, and asked her to withdraw the case because there was not enough evidence proving that Kosal was guilty. One day after the incident took place, Sophy had a forensic examination, with the results showing that she had a slight injury on her genitals but which was not serious enough to prove that she had been raped. In addition, there were no witnesses who could testify that Kosal actually raped her. And most importantly, the IBJ lawyer found out that the police incited her to say that she had been raped by Kosal. IBJ lawyer asked her to testify at trial. During the hearing, Sophy realized the serious consequences of her accusation and withdrew her initial statements, admitting everything to the judge: the false accusation and the incentive put by the police. Finally, the judge found Kosal not guilty based on what Sophy said, and because of lacking elements to constitute the offense.
When he was arrested, and during the trial, Kosal said that he felt confident about the outcomes of the situation, because he had not committed any crime. However, he was afraid that the judge would not believe his version of the story. Now, Kosal has been released. However, the 6-month detention period economically affected him and his family. He was not here to help his father during the harvest season. Fortunately, in the aftermath of this experience, his community does not show any prejudice against him. He was able to go back to an almost normal life. Now, he has broken up with Sophy and is earning his life as a boxer.