Cambodian authorities and local child protection organizations said this week that they had no knowledge of an alleged underage sex scandal in Siem Reap in 2005 that is engulfing two Indonesian politicians.
According to articles published in Indonesian publications last week, two members of Indonesia’s parliament, including one minister in the country’s new cabinet, are rumored to have been arrested at a hotel in Siem Reap while visiting the city for a Asean tourism meeting in July 2005.
“An army of police came and raided the hotel where officials were staying,” Indonesian-language website Inilah.com reported Saturday. “They were accused of doing indecent acts on underage girls.”
According to several Indonesian media accounts, the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh allegedly intervened on behalf of the politicians, paying a large fine for their release.
Rahandro Witomo, secretary of cultural affairs at the Indonesian Embassy, said on Monday that he was contacted last week by Indonesian reporters, but that he was unable to provide any information about the alleged incident.
“We don’t know about what happened in Siem Reap,” Mr Witomo said by telephone. “This is a long time ago, but no one called the Embassy about this case.”
The allegations reportedly started with an Indonesian activist who claimed to have received a letter about the alleged arrests written on stationary bearing the letterhead of Cambodian human rights group Licadho.
However, Licadho director Naly Pilorge said by telephone Monday that she had no knowledge of the case or the letter.
Newly-appointed Indonesian Public Housing Minister Suharso Monoarfa was named as one of the two offending parliamentarians, according to a report published on the website of Tempo magazine. The other lawmaker has not been named. Mr Suharso has denied the allegations. “The important thing is I did not do it,” he told the magazine.
According to several Indonesian-language publications, Christian Guth, a former French policeman who is an adviser to the Cambodian Interior Ministry on child trafficking, was named as being involved in the investigation.
However, Mr Guth said Sunday that he had no memory of the case, and was unable to find documentation when contacted by Indonesian reporters last week. “It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” he said by telephone. “I have about 600 cases a year.”
Cambodian NGOs involved in child protection and anti-human trafficking efforts also had no know- ledge of the case.
Patrick Stayton, field office director for International Justice Mission, said Sunday that he doesn’t recall the case. “It doesn’t ring a bell at all as one of the cases IJM was involved.”
Adhoc provincial monitor Mao Yin said that she was not aware of the case, nor was Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophilia NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, or Chap Muon of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center.
Authorities in Siem Reap province also drew a blank when contacted this week.
Siem Reap provincial anti-trafficking police Chief Sun Bunthang said Monday that since starting work in Siem Reap in 2003, he has kept records of all foreigners arrested for child sex crimes.
“I have not encountered any cases about Indonesian pedophiles in 2005,” he said Monday. “We have some other nationals, but not Indonesians.”