Friday, 24 July 2009

Freed woman wants money

Photo by: Courtesy of Adhoc
Rights group workers discover Svay Yi Pho, who was chained to her bed in her Sen Sok district home for weeks.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
May Titthara

A WOMAN who was reportedly chained to a bed in her Sen Sok district home for weeks told the Post Thursday that she had not received the US$23,500 that was taken from her by relatives including Chea Savoeun, an assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"I felt very angry when they put that shackle on my leg, because I am not crazy," Svay Yi Pho said in an interview. "I just want to get my money back. I can manage my money."

Workers for the rights group Adhoc discovered Svay Yi Pho last Thursday after receiving a tip from an RCAF soldier that she had been forcibly detained in her home in Dong village, Teuk Thla commune, Sen Sok district.

Adhoc investigator Ouch Leng said he believed the 37-year-old had been held for three months by relatives who wanted to take from her the $23,500 she had recently pocketed when she sold her Central Market bookstore.

Chea Savoeun, the assistant to the premier who is also Svay Yi Pho's cousin, confirmed in an interview Monday that he and several other relatives had detained her against her will, though he said this had been done because she suffered from an unspecified mental disorder and was prone to neurotic and destructive behaviour.

He said she had only been held for two weeks.

He also acknowledged taking her money, arguing that she could not be trusted to spend it responsibly.

In an interview Thursday, Chea Savoeun said he stood by his actions.

"As I said before, I didn't want to keep her money, and she could come and take it from me as she needs, but we cannot give all of it to her because she has a sensitive nerve problem," he said.

"I keep records of how much she takes from me. For example, this morning she came and took about $50, and we needed her thumbprint so that we can make it clear."

He added: "I want to give all the money to her because I don't want to have contact with her, but some NGOs and government officials told me not to because she can't look after her money."

Ouch Leng and Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, have said that Adhoc and Licadho doctors examined Svay Yi Pho shortly after she was discovered and concluded that she did not suffer from anything other than stress.

Chea Savoeun said Thursday that other NGOs would soon release test results proving that Svay Yi Pho suffers from a "sensitive nerve problem", though he declined to specify which ones.

Mann Sotheara, a doctor for the rights group Licadho, said Thursday that he would continue to monitor her for the next two months.

Chea Savoeun also defended his relatives' decision to chain her to the bed, which he described as "nothing new".

"Her husband did this for 10 years already after she got her sensitive nerve problem, and we followed that process after they got divorced because we wanted her to take her medication," he said.

Meas Sam Oeun, who Svay Yi Pho divorced one month ago, acknowledged Thursday that he had chained his ex-wife in the past.

Looking ahead
Svay Yi Pho said Thursday that she wanted to use the $23,500 she got from the sale of her bookstore to purchase a new bookstore, but that she had been unable to persuade Chea Savoeun to give it to her.

Chiv Paly, deputy director of the Interior Ministry's anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said earlier this week that the case had been sent to Municipal Court but declined to answer questions about whether an investigation had been conducted or charges filed.

Chiv Paly and Municipal Court President Chiv Keng declined to comment on the case Thursday. Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said the case was being handled by Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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