A property tycoon in Cambodia is under currently under investigation after a montage of video clips showing him attacking his ex-wife went viral this week, prompting a rebuke from the government that faces pressure to take tougher action on domestic abuse.
The businessman, Duong Chhay, 31, defended his actions via Facebook, accusing his former wife of having provoked his violence, earning some sympathy in a nation where campaigners point to a culture of victim-blaming around gender-based abuse.
Chhay, whose father is a police general, was not arrested even as the police said they were investigating the case, but he was stripped of a royal honorific and reprimanded by the women’s ministry.
“Right now, our officers are working on this matter,” Phnom Penh police spokesman San Sokseiha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, declining further comment.
A royal decree was issued on Thursday stripping Chhay of his “Oknha” title, an honorific granted to businessmen who make significant contributions to the state.
The hour-long collection of clips shows Chhay beating his former wife, cosmetics entrepreneur Deth Malina, also 31, dragging her by the hair, kicking her and pushing aside their children and her parents.
It was apparently compiled from CCTV footage recorded in their home up until December last year, when the couple divorced.
Neither Chhay nor his lawyers could be reached for further comment.
Malina said in a Facebook livestream on Friday that she would not file a police complaint against Chhay over the abuse.
The video, which had more than 2 million views by the end of the day but has since been removed, sparked a lively debate on social media about domestic violence in the socially conservative Southeast Asian nation.
Women’s campaigners noted that many people – including women – had found ways to justify Chhay’s violence.
“That some social media users appear to side with him following his ‘explanations’ shows more needs to be done to combat harmful gender stereotypes and entrenched social norms,” said Chak Sopheap, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Cambodia has made progress in eradicating gender-based violence, but many fundamental challenges remain, “not the least being that authorities themselves have perpetrated violence against women,” she said.
“While this incident has made headlines in recent days … it is sadly just one of many.”
In April, a woman was jailed after refusing to wear more conservative outfits while selling goods via livestream – two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen said scantily dressed online vendors were encouraging sexual assault.
Still, after the clips went viral, the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which has been criticised by campaigners for failing to stand up for women, issued a statement condemning the violence and urging abuse victims to come forward. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)