The Siem Reap Municipal Court on Tuesday sentenced Cambodian lawyer Mao Tan Eam to two-and-a-half years in prison for purchasing child prostitution, but he will not spend a single day in jail after the court suspended the entire custodial sentence, an official said.
Deputy provincial prosecutor Chhoun Sophea said the court also ordered Mao Tan Eam to pay four million riel to the victim, or about $1,000. “I think that the court’s decision is suitable and we can accept it, though if the victim’s family disagrees they have the right to appeal it,” Mr. Sophea said, declining to comment further.
Presiding Judge Sam Bunpao refused to comment on the verdict.
Mr. Tan Eam was charged in February 2013 after police and investigators from anti-pedophile group Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) raided his guesthouse in Siem Reap City and found him together with a 15-year-old boy. The boy said he had been paid for sex.
The lawyer, who remains a member of the Cambodian Bar Association, confessed to police that he had sex with the minor, but said Wednesday that the court’s sentence was too severe.
He denied his guilt and said the boy, whom he had previously met on the Siem Reap riverside, knocked on his guestroom door and asked the lawyer to take him for a meal. Mr. Tan Eam claimed that when the pair emerged from the guesthouse, they were followed by police.
“It is very unjust because I did not commit a crime. Police and APLE colluded because they want my money and to defame my reputation and they used this boy to set me up,” he said.
Samleang Seila, country director of APLE, said his organization will appeal the verdict, which he said is unprecedented in its leniency.
“This has never happened in the history of APLE. I can only hope that this has nothing to do with his membership at the Bar Association of Cambodia or his position in society in general,” he said.