Local rights group Licadho and Action Pour Les Enfants issued a joint statement Tuesday expressing concern over the alleged intimidation of five children who filed complaints against a British citizen accused of sexually abusing them at a Phnom Penh orphanage.
Michael Leach, 44, was detained by Phnom Penh municipal anti-trafficking police on April 1 after the children, ages 12 to 15, filed the complaints.
“In recent days, the homes of child complainants in this case have been visited by persons who allegedly urged the children and their parents to withdraw their complaints against the Englishman,” the organizations wrote.
At least one of the children was persuaded to sign a document, the contents of which were not read to the child, the organizations added.
A former manager of the Lighthouse Orphanage, who gave his name as Rithy, said on Wednesday that he has a statement by his sister, an orphan and complainant against Leach, denying that he had sexually assaulted her.
“[She] told the police that Michael touched her stomach. Touching like this is not wrong,” Rithy said, adding that he and his sister were called in for questioning by Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth last week. Rithy said he did not encourage his sister to change her complaints.
Interviewed last week, Leach admitted that he had masqueraded as a doctor at the orphanage and that he had examined Rithy’s sister in his presence and on other occasions. Leach also said he had touched her just above the groin.
“When I examined her, I remember distinctly, Rithy was present. Rithy was not only the supervisor of the orphanage, but her brother,” Leach said last week.
Leach was bailed out of police custody by Lighthouse Orphanage Director Chea Savy—whose husband is senior Interior Ministry official Ly Kim Long.
In addition to the abuse allegations, Leach is accused of impersonating a doctor, Keo Thea, deputy chief of the municipal anti-trafficking and juvenile protection unit, said last week.