20 October 2016

Cambodian TV star recalls savage beating by tycoon

A Cambodian real estate tycoon has surrendered to authorities after the country’s prime minister urged him to face charges for violently assaulting a 28-year-old television star.

Sok Bun, 37, is being held at a Phnom Penh prison pending trial. He could face a jail term of up to five years if convicted.

The businessman had fled the country after a CCTV footage of the assault started circulating on social media. He returned after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the filing of charges against him.

Last week he issued a statement expressing his “deep regrets” over the incident and offered to pay the victim 408.8 million Cambodian riel (US$100,000).

But TV star Ek Socheata, better known as Sasa, declined the offer and said she will pursue charges against him.

Sasa, who narrated her harrowing experience to the Guardian newspaper, said she refuses to be daunted by the wealth of her assailant.

The video shows the businessman Sok Bun dragging the 28-year-old actress to the ground and then repeatedly punching her and kicking her in the head.

The incident happened at a Japanese restaurant in the early hours of July 2. She said she was trying to stop Sok Bun and his bodyguard who were dragging a drunk Japanese friend into a car.

“I said: ‘Please leave her. Don’t push her again and again. She doesn’t want to go. And she is so drunk, let her sleep,’” Sasa told the newspaper.

When she told Sok Bun that she would call the police, she said he turned his ire on her.

“He grabbed my hair, and hit me and put my head down again and again,” Sasa said.

She tried to reach her phone to call the police but she momentarily lost consciousness.

The video shows a waiter trying to restrain Sok Bun but to no avail. Another man, identified by Sasa as Sok Bun’s bodyguard, appears to point a pistol at her head.

“When I watch the video clip of what he did to me, I almost cry. It’s unbelievable that he hit me like that,” Sasa said.

Sasa sent photos to the newspaper showing the injuries she sustained from the assault, including open sores on her legs, bruises on her body and a black eye.

Violence against women is rampant in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, the newspaper said.

Laws exist to protect women, but they are rarely enforced. Studies show that many women still regard domestic violence as a private matter, it added.

Sasa said friends had warned her not to publicize the attack, but she ignored the advice and posted the CCTV footage on Facebook.

“For me, I do not care about what he is,” she told the newspaper. “I cannot accept what he did to me.”

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