Official Worries About Delays in Sex Abuse Case

Delays in the ongoing case against suspected pedophile Pierre Guynot have raised fears that the legal proceedings have been tainted, a police investigator said Wednesday.

Guynot, 45, the owner of Obye Karting in Sihanoukville’s Mitta­pheap district, stands accused of debauchery, illegal confinement and illegal weapons possession for allegedly sadomasochistically abusing several young boys.

In the last several years only one foreign pedophile has been successfully prosecuted in Cambodia, which has gained a reputation as a safe haven for those who prey on children. Englishman Jon Keeler is ser­ving a three-year jail term for abusing several young girls in 2000, but more than a dozen other alleged pedophiles have reportedly slipped quietly through judicial loopholes and left the country since the mid-1990s.

Authorities held Guynot for the legal limit of six months in Siha­noukville jail before releasing him for trial on Nov 30, 2001.

Guynot has denied all charges against him, and the court has re­leased him to gather more evidence. The court assured officials they would resume Guynot’s trial within two to three months.

But Chhrin Vanne, the deputy director of the Minor Protection Office in the Ministry of Interior’s Penal Department who led the investigation, said Wednesday he is worried the investigation is dragging.

“The judge has taken a lot of time to do this case. Usually, if you work in an organization and you do your work in this manner, you would be fired,” Chhrin Vanne said.

Prosecuting Judge Tak Kimsea said his investigation is nearing completion, but still needs to question some of the witnesses.

“We will finish the process by next week,” he said, adding the trial will probably take place in mid-March.

That’s still not satisfactory, Chhrin Vanne said.

“Usually the questioning takes three or four days. How many hours you spend interviewing each person?” he said.

Tak Kimsea also said that he intends to send some of the victims to a doctor in order to prove the boys were sexually assaulted.

Authorities arrested Guynot May 31, 2001, acting on a tip the French expatriate had locked a 14-year-old boy inside a container in his Sihanoukville home.

Guynot maintains the boy was a chicken thief.

Police claimed to have confiscated some 1,300 pornographic pictures from Guynot’s computer, as well as 180 pornographic VCDs.

Guynot is currently under house-arrest in Sihanoukville, where he runs a go-kart business and lives with two young men.

He attributed his legal troubles to vicious gossip.

“I don’t know why they make complaints against me,” Guynot said. “People hear about a man living alone with boys and they make a story about it, put some people up to signing false depositions.”

Regarding the pictures taken from his computer and presented to the court, many of which were pornographic, Guynot said “most were customers at my swimming pool and there were more [boys] there with swimsuits than without. I was just trying out my digital camera or maybe the boys were taking pictures of themselves.”

Other pornographic photos, he said, “were some kind of sample maybe, they were very small [in size]. I received them from the Internet because I am the Web master for Sihanoukville, so I receive many propositions.”

Officials say they are not delaying the case deliberately, but have suffered setbacks.

“Sex is very hard to prove, there is no evidence besides the testimony” of the boys, Prosecuting Judge Tak Kimsea said.

Making matters worse for prosecutors, two of the boys involved in the case recanted their original testimony, Tak Kimsea said.

One boy who was staying with Guynot later went to stay at the NGO Mith Samlanh/Friends, where he learned of Guynot’s arrest, Tak Kimsea said. According to the prosecuting judge, a Friends official wrote a complaint to the court about Guynot, which was followed by a written, thumbprinted statement from the boy accusing Guynot of sexual misconduct.

“The NGOs suggest the kids to file charges, they suggest them to accuse the French guy so the kids could get money,” Tak Kimsea claimed.

That boy came to court Dec 21, 2001, and recanted his statement. Tak Kimsea said the boy told him: “I never had sex with that man, I do not want to complain against him because he never had homosexual [relations] with me and I never went to sleep in his room.”

A second boy recanted his written complaint on Jan 16, 2002.

The case should not have lasted this long Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said. The long-stalled trial will just give room to more suspicions of court incompetence and corruption.

“There was enough proof; we saw the evidence,” she said. The delays “would give them more time for intimidation of the children, give them time to buy the silence of the witnesses. Do these boys want to tell the stories again and be further humiliated?”

Chhrin Vanne added that he presented eight witnesses at the first trial, but “the judge decided to pick four and ignore the other four.”

The investigation was initiated by the Ministry of Interior, but Chhrin Vanne’s office “is not involved in the investigation because it is in the hands of the court,” he said.

Authorities are exploring the possibility of reopening their investigation. If the court requests the ministry’s assistance it will become involved again, Chhrin Vanne said.

This appears to be a case of the overstretched courts letting down the national police, Mu Sochua said.

“The courts have little resources,” Mu Sochua said. “The police have done a wonderful job so far. I praise the Ministry of Interior for the good work that they have done so far.”

Mu Sochua said she plans to request an explanation from the court and that she will ask the ministries of Justice and Interior to look into the matter further.

(Additional Reporting by Phann Ana and Lor Chandara)


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