Kampot Provincial Court yesterday sentenced a French man to a year in prison and ordered him to pay $1,000 in compensation and fines for sexually molesting two boys, 14 and 16, after being released on bail by Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court, where he had been charged with molesting a 13-year-old, court officials said.
Jean-Marie Beranger, 62, was originally charged by the Kampot court with procuring child prostitutes—which would have carried a sentence of seven to fifteen years—but the three-judge panel amended the charges to indecent acts with children, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
“This is not justice for my clients,” said Noun Phanith, a lawyer for the NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, who represented the two boys, adding that Beranger was given the minimum possible sentence.
Mr Phanith said the sentence was not an adequate punishment for paying the two boys for sex and did not take into account that the crimes occurred when Beranger was free on $1,000 bail from similar charges.
Defense lawyer Tann Mengsroy said yesterday that he too was unhappy with the decision because the testimony of the younger victim was inconsistent, accusing Mr Beranger of molesting either two or four boys.
“He did not have sex with them,” Mr Mengsroy maintained. “He just gave them money to take him to visit a number of different places in Kampot.”
APLE Country Director Samleang Seila said that the sentence was unusually light given the sheer quantity of accusations leveled against Beranger, who he said was under investigation by Phnom Penh authorities for four other alleged incidents and had been accused of molesting boys in Kep province as well.
“The Preah Sihanouk case and the Phnom Penh case have still not gone to trial,” said Mr Seila.
The presiding judge in Kampot, Tak Kimsea, could not be reached yesterday for comment.