Two foreigners arrested Tuesday after police raided a brothel on the outskirts of Phnom Penh were charged with debauchery in municipal court.
Japanese national Kanae Masato, 54, and German national Elmar Bernhard, 61, were charged Thursday under the anti-trafficking and exploitation law, court clerk Hong Ry told reporters. If convicted, they face between 10 and 20 years in jail.
They will remain in detention while the investigating judge gathers evidence for their trial, a court official said.
As they sat handcuffed together awaiting the court’s decision, the pair covered their faces with their hands, peered through their fingers and fidgeted.
The two were arrested Tuesday evening after police raided Brothel 5 in Svay Pak village, Russei Keo district.
Police confiscated video footage from Masato of him having sex with six allegedly underage girls, Keo Thea, deputy bureau chief at the anti-human-trafficking and minors protection police department, said Tuesday.
Two girls, ages 12 and 14, later told police they had sex with Bernhard, Keo Thea said.
Two women and a man accused of operating the brothel were charged in absentia Thursday with prostitution and debauchery. They were identified as Trang Chuc, 50, Va, 40, and Ta Dang, 50.
As Bernhard left the questioning room for lunch, he kicked and kneed one reporter after warning him not to take photographs.
He declined to comment on the accusations made against him.
“You are scum,” he told the reporter from behind a newspaper covering his face.
Bernhard, who sent police out to buy him several cans of beer, drank through the proceedings.
Masato also declined to comment on the charges.
Keo Thea said Bernhard lives in Hegan, Germany, and has a doctorate in philosophy. He identified Masato as a businessman based in Bombay, India, but is originally from Hyogo prefecture in southern Japan.
Yutaka Aoki, first secretary at the Japanese Embassy, declined to comment on the charges.
A German Embassy official said Thursday he hoped a just result would be achieved for Bernhard.
“As an embassy we cannot interfere with the judicial process in Cambodia,” the official said. “We would just like to see the law applied.
“They are criminal charges put against him, and they are a crime in Germany also, if [they] can be proven,” the official said.
Bernhard’s acquaintances in Germany have been informed of his arrest by the German federal police, the official said.
The women’s and children’s rights organization Afesip is now caring for the pair’s alleged victims. Its director, Pierre Legros, welcomed news of the charges Thursday. The girls are suffering from trauma, he said.
“We are very happy” with the result, he said. “We were quite afraid [Bernhard and Masato] would be released.”
He added that Afesip will continue to investigate the case in the lead up to the trial, he said.