NGO: Court Should Weigh Pedophile’s Past

When Belgian national Philippe Dessart, 47, stands trial in Phnom Penh on Friday for alleged de­bauchery involving a 13-year-old Cambodian boy, it will be his second time in the dock on charges of child abuse.

Dessart, a former Latin, French and history teacher, was convicted by a Belgian court in 1994 of raping, torturing and sexually assaulting three boys. He was sentenced to five years in jail, of which he served three, and was ordered to pay $22,000 in damages to his victims.

Though Dessart was arrested in April at a Phnom Penh guesthouse with a naked 13-year-old boy, Bea­trice Magnier, director of Action Pour Les Enfants, said she fears that the Belgian may go unpunished.

Earlier this year, the family of the 13-year-old dismissed the lawyer provided to them by APLE, said Mag­nier, adding that she fears the boy might recant his earlier statements that implicated the Belgian in abuse. “It’s often the case,” said Magnier, adding that in the ab­sence of physical evidence, the child’s testimony will be key.

“The only thing that is truly proof is the testimony,” she said. “If this sole proof falls through, all the other elements will have to come into play,” she added. “If you put all the elements together, that’s when you have the evidence to convict him.”

Municipal Court Chief Prose­cutor Ouk Savouth and Court Pre­sident Chiv Keng both declined to com­ment on the case prior to Friday’s trial.

“We will see,” Keo Thea, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh anti-trafficking police department, said of the hearing.

Keo Thea declined to discuss the evidence against Dessart. However, following the arrest in April, he said that Dessart’s prior conviction was strong evidence.

Dessart’s defense lawyers could not be contacted Monday; neither could the family of his alleged victim.

In a June statement, Pierre Huyghe, whom Dessart was con­vict­­ed of raping in 1994, said he would feel “greatly betrayed” if his for­mer tormenter were acquitted in Cambodia.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)





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