The acting head of an orphanage whose president is currently jailed for allegedly sexually abusing one of the girls under his care is seeking move the children remaining at the center, claiming the president’s family is pressuring other children to defend the accused sex offender.
Path Norn, president of the Light Association of Cambodia, was charged last month with sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl staying at his orphanage after the girl complained to the court. He is in Prey Sar prison awaiting a trial.
Acting president Dilly Barnaart said on Monday that he was worried Path Norn’s family was pressuring other children at the orphanage not to file complaints to the court and instead to demonstrate on Path Norn’s behalf.
Barnaart said that members of Path Norn’s family forced the children to demonstrate for his release in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence shortly after his arrest. He said that he was awaiting word on the girls’ transfer from officials at the ministries of Social Affairs and Interior.
You Senem, deputy president of the Child Welfare Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said Monday that she has passed the request along to the minister, but is still waiting for a reply.
“The orphanage is not suitable for children live in,” she said.
You Senem also corroborated Barnaart’s account of the forced protest at Hun Sen’s residence.
But Sok Ryna, a teacher at the orphanage, said the children should stay.
“The children said they did not want to go; they wanted to wait until their grandfather [Path Norn] gets out of prison,” she said.
She said the children were not forced to stay and that they are free to leave.
The teacher also said Barnaart paid the children $50 each to say they want to leave the orphanage. Barnaart denied the allegations, saying three Western families have offered to help support three of the orphans by paying their expenses on a monthly basis.