Cambodia’s Minister of Justice Wednesday rejected responsibility for the disappearance of a notorious US pedophile suspect, and downplayed concerns over his whereabouts.
The Sihanoukville Municipal Court released US citizen Terry Darrell Smith, 54, and his Cambodian girlfriend Chea Sovannary, 26, Aug 31, one month after charging them with debauchery. An anti-pedophile NGO said Smith is also wanted in the US on 13 charges of child sexual abuse.
“I don’t think this concerns the Ministry of Justice, it concerns the police,” Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said Wednesday.
Ang Vong Vathana said the Sihanoukville court has advised him that Smith’s release was intended to be a temporary one. He said it is now up to the police to track down the suspect if he does not return on his own.
Be Sivanna, chief of Sihanoukville’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, said Wednesday that police had no idea of Smith’s location and that it was up to the courts to re-issue an arrest warrant. “The onus is on the court, it is out of our hands already,” he said.
Smith was arrested July 31 and charged with debauchery Aug 3 for allegedly having sex with two girls aged 13 and 14 at his Sihanoukville bar, Tramp’s Palace, and filming the abuse.
Sihanoukville Court Director Svay Sisarouth said Monday that she released Smith and his girlfriend from jail based on a letter signed by Calmette’s chief of neurology Dr Kong Phirum. But Kong Phirum denied Tuesday that he requested Smith’s release from prison.
Beatrice Magnier, director of anti-pedophile Action Pour Les Enfants, said Wednesday that she was very concerned that Smith was still at large. “It can be a danger for Cambodian children,” she said.
Mu Sochua, former minister of women’s affairs, said that everyone involved is responsible for Smith’s disappearance. “We have to stop saying ‘who is responsible?’” she said Wednesday. “[The court director] is responsible for her actions and the police are responsible for catching him.”
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)