Sixty-year-old American sent to court for child sex offences

(Phnom Penh) : Phnom Penh authorities have sent a US national to court after his arrest on Saturday for the rape of five underage girls and involvement in child prostitution.

Initial reports indicate there may be further victims and suspects in the case.

On Saturday evening, the 60-year-old was detained at a massage parlor in the capital’s Kakab II commune in Por Sen Chey district.

Phnom Penh Department of Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection director Keo Thea told our reporter on Monday that the man had long been suspected of committing such offences but there had not previously been enough evidence to arrest him.

“[He] had been in Cambodia a long time and we had known [of his crimes], but we did not have concrete evidence to arrest him. Only recently did we obtain the evidence needed to do so. There are other relevant persons we are currently investigating. We cannot reveal more,” he said.

“Currently we have charged him on two counts – child prostitution and aggravated sexual assault of a minor. There are five minors involved in the case, three of them aged eight, while the two others are [now] over 18, but the offences are continuous until his arrest. According to the investigation, there are other victims – our police are further working on the case.”

Thea said the suspect was put in provisional detention at the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection office while the case was readied to be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The five victims were referred to the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Social Affairs by police.

Khoem Vando, child prostitution specialist at NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, which works to tackle child abuse and exploitation, said there were many factors contributing to child abuse cases involving foreign nationals.

He said sexual abuse often arose from negligence by families. Perpetrators may console the children of neglectful parents, while some may be tempted financially to not fully protect their children. He called for severe legal repercussions for child molesters, saying the act had long-lasting effects on victims.

According to a 2018 Ministry of Interior report, authorities intervened in the cases of 115 victims of human trafficking and 230 of exploitation. Of these, 92 were aged under 15, with 23 aged between 15 and 17.

There were 115 aged 18 and over. Among them, 136 victims were sent home to their parents or guardians, 92 to the Department of Social Affairs and two to an NGO.