Decade-Plus Sentences for Five in Pedophilia Case

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on March 9 imposed lengthy prison sentences on two Ger­mans and three Vietnamese nationals for their roles in the sexual abuse of four girls aged between 12 and 14.

A haggard Thomas Baron von Engelhardt, 42, showed little emotion but breathed heavily as Pre­siding Judge Ke Sakhorn sentenced him and Henning Karl Heinz Opitz, 61, each to 12 years in prison for debauchery.

Opitz received an additional 16 years for human trafficking as he procured the children, making him eligible for release in 2035.

Two Vietnamese codefendants, Nguyen Hong Voeng, 20, and his wife, Cheng Thi Yu, 22, each re­ceived 17 years for providing the children. Cheng Thit Heu, 48, the mother of two of the victims, was sentenced to 15 years.

The five were detained in August in a series of arrests during which police uncovered a trove of video evidence implicating both Germans in the sexual abuse of children.

“The people who shot the photos are Henning and Thomas,” Ke Sakhorn said. “This is evidence that cannot be denied.”

The judge added that Opitz’s conduct had been particularly cruel.

“[Opitz] used drugs to make him­self more daring and he used violence, such as tying up the hands and legs, beating with a whip, using threatening words before having sex,” he said.

Opitz declined to say whether the trial had been fair.

“If you think it’s fair, it’s okay,” he said. Baron von Engelhardt blamed the media for his downfall. “You destroyed my life the minute I was captured,” he said. “In other countries, you kill somebody you get 12 years.”

Katherine Keane, country director for NGO Action Pour Les En­fants, said her organization would continue to identify other children in the videos. “We are talking hundreds and hundreds of hours of hardcore child pornography showing both of them, only a small part of which has been opened,” she said.


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