An English teacher from the US was charged with debauchery at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, court officials said.
Charles Landis, 38, could face 10 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charge, according to prosecutor Nget Sarath.
Landis is accused of having sex with at least one girl as young as 12, though seven have come forth in the case, Nget Sarath said. Not all of the girls are under 15—the cut-off age to be charged with debauchery.
Landis was arrested at his Phnom Penh home Thursday by police from the municipality’s anti-human trafficking office. Police collected statements from some of the seven girls, Nget Sarath said.
Those statements, the girls’ clothes and a computer confiscated from Landis’ home will be passed to US officials to determine if he can be prosecuted in the US, said Keo Thea, deputy chief of the anti-human trafficking office.
“I want to punish him here, but to extradite him out [to the US] depends on the government,” Nget Sarath said, referring to Cambodia’s recent practice of returning US citizens home to be tried for sex crimes allegedly committed here.
Landis, a fluent speaker of Khmer, was a well-liked teacher at the Home of English, according to administrator Steve Billington.
Waiting to meet Judge Sor Sophory at court Monday, Landis said that police had coerced him to sign a confession after his arrest. “I was forced to sign a confession,” he said. “The interrogation was brutal, mentally.”
School administrators sent letters to the parents of its students on Monday, apologizing and assuring that the Home of English was unaware of the crimes alleged against Landis.
“We have never seen any bad behavior from this teacher at the school or received any complaints from any students. In fact, he was known to be an excellent teacher,” the letter read. “This is the reason he was able to have a secret life that neither we nor other teachers knew about. Not even his friends knew about his other life.”