Phnom Penh Municipal Court has quietly dismissed a case against a 49-year-old Belgian man accused of raping his 14-year-old housemaid, a dismissal heavily criticized by a police official and a human rights activist.
The case against Rudy Demasure, who was arrested earlier this month, was dropped last week after the victim retracted her statement, a court official confirmed Monday.
According to the court official who requested anonymity, the girl said she had lied about being raped by the Belgian businessman in order to receive hush money from him.
“Actually the facts were fake and were pushed by someone who tried to do harm to [Demasure],” said Demasure’s attorney, Ang Udom, who said his client was released last Thursday.
But the retraction was greeted with skepticism and outrage.
Chrin Vanna, deputy chief of the anti-sex trafficking department at the Interior Ministry, said Monday he did not believe the girl lied about the incident because the medical examinations showed that she was raped.
“If the girl lied about the rape, then the doctor who examined her also lied,” said Chrin Vanna. “I don’t believe she lied….But if the court agreed to release I cannot intervene.”
Chanthol Oung, director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, said contradictions in the court’s dismissal highlight the need for an investigation.
“After the arrest [Investigating Judge] Mong Mony Chakriya said there was enough evidence. But now the case has been dropped. His statements are contradictory,” said Chanthol Oung, adding that claims of outside pressure on the case now seem to be evident.
Several police officials said soon after Demasure’s arrest in early June that a senior government official had intervened in the case in an attempt to free Demasure. One police chief identified the official as an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The adviser denied intervening in the case.
Earlier this month, Municipal Penal Police Chief Khoun Sophon said Demasure was arrested because of the weight of evidence against him, including an attempt by Demasure to buy the girl’s silence.
Demasure’s lawyer said earlier this month that his client had acknowledged he had sex with the girl, [but] “she said she is 18 years old.”
Demasure could not be reached for comment Monday. In addition to running an agricultural investment company, Demasure bills himself as a doctor and is listed as secretary-general of a health-related NGO called the Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Program.
The rape allegation was the second such complaint against the Belgian, according to one police official. Ream Sarim, bureau chief of the municipal police minor crime department, said recently that Demasure had paid $700 to the parents of another teen-age girl who had complained last year that she had been raped.
The Municipal Court decision last week to dismiss the latest case against Demasure was signed by Investigating Judge Mong Mony Chakriya and Chief Prosecutor Uk Savuth.
Mong Mony Chakriya could not be contacted Monday. Uk Savuth said Sunday he did not know about Demasure’s release.
Chanthol Oung said the dismissal highlights the problem of impunity for those who abuse children.
She said that pedophiles will target Cambodia in greater numbers because of government inaction.
Mu Sochua, Minister of Women’s Affairs, said last week that the case against Demasure was extensive, and she worried about the possibility of intimidation of court officials.
“All I can say is that there should be no intimidation,” Mu Sochua said then. “No buying out [of the case]….I don’t care what level they [the officials] are at. [The court] should only look at the evidence.”
An official at the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok said Thursday the embassy also is investigating Demasure.