The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged New Zealander Anthony Malcom Hatfield with debauchery, or sexually corrupting minors.
Police arrested Hatfield on Saturday at his rented home in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang II commune after six alleged victims, boys aged 12 to 16, gave evidence against him.
Investigating Judge Tan Senarong said Wednesday that he issued a detention warrant for Hatfield, who will stay in Prey Sar prison while the court continues to look into his case.
Prosecutor Nget Sarath said Tuesday that he pressed the debauchery charge successfully.
Hatfield “confessed in front of police that he had sexual intercourse with the children. But when I asked him [in the court room], he denied this,” the prosecutor said.
Hatfield’s lawyer, Van Phalna, stressed Wednesday that detention does not imply guilt.
“They have no evidence to punish him,” he said.
Keo Thea, deputy chief of the Municipal Police’s anti-trafficking bureau, said Monday that police had been investigating Hatfield, a Phnom Penh English teacher born in 1946, for two or three months. Hatfield is the 12th foreigner arrested for having sex with minors since late November.
Authorities released one suspected pedophile, Richard Arthur Schmidt, in December, citing a lack of evidence. Two days later, he was arrested again on the same charge. The authorities have released three more of the suspects before trying them. None of the others have been tried yet.
Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, wrote by e-mail Wednesday that her organization was pleased with the recent spate of arrests.
“However, it is as important that the local judiciary and law enforcement officers continue to conduct investigations after the arrests to ensure that victims are protected and sex offenders are tried,” Pilorge wrote.
She stated the increase in arrests might be attributed to improved awareness among communities, law enforcement and civil society, as well as enhanced resources and willingness to take on such cases.