Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court yesterday tried a 62-year-old French man in absentia for alleged indecent acts on a 13-year-old boy. The accused is already serving a one-year sentence for his June conviction for sex crimes against two other boys, officials said.
The court also delayed a trial on the same charge for a 47-year-old German man.
In court yesterday, the alleged victim testified that the Jean-Marie Beranger sexually abused him and then paid him $2 in September last year, according to Judge Plang Samnang. But Judge Samnang noted that the police report differed from the victim’s statement.
“I will consider this case and I will announce [a verdict] on Monday,” he said.
The charge carries a penalty of one to three years in prison and maximum fine of $1,500 but this can be doubled for repeat offenses.
During the hearing, Beranger was in prison Kampot province where court sentenced him to a year in jail ordered him to pay $1,000 in compensation and fines for sexually molesting a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old boy, according to Judge Samnang. The Frenchman is also being investigated over separate allegations sex crimes in Phnom Penh, the judge said.
A 35-year-old witness told the court yesterday that he saw the suspect and the alleged victim sitting together but did not see Beranger do anything indecent, said APLE’s Noun Phanith, a lawyer for the alleged victim, who said Beranger stood accused of performing oral sex on the boy.
“I think that the suspect really did an indecent act on my client,” he said.
Beranger’s lawyer, Khun Sophal, denied that his client abused the then-13-year old.
“My client did not do the case,” he said.
The court yesterday also delayed the indecent acts trial of German national Walter Orson Novak, 47, according to Mr Phanith, a lawyer for the Mr Novak’s two alleged victims. Mr Phanith said he asked for the delay because Mr Novak was absent from the court but that the judge had not announced a date for trial to resume.
Mr Novak is accused of sexually abusing two boys, 12 and 14, and was released on bail by the provincial court in April of 2009.
The anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants recorded nine total convictions of foreign pedophiles in Cambodia’s courts in 2008, according to the organization. The number increased to 13 in 2009 and 14 have occurred so far this year. Arrests jumped from 12 in 2008 to 26 in 2009, but then dropped to nine so far this year.
APLE Country Director Samleang Seila said there was an increase in police activity in 2009, leading to more arrests that year and more convictions so far this year.
“The police were more active in 2009 than ever before,” he said.
But he cautioned that there were still many difficulties in prosecuting pedophiles, from perpetrators paying families to withdraw complaints, to courts freeing on bail foreign suspects who then flee.