The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged the former CEO of the Aero Cambodia aviation company with purchasing child prostitution, his lawyer said.
Police arrested U.S. national Brian Naswall on Koh Pich Island in Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune on Friday night while he was allegedly in the process of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl as two other underage girls looked on, according to police.
On Tuesday, municipal deputy prosecutor Sean Sok charged Mr. Naswall with purchasing child prostitution under the anti-human trafficking law, said Dun Vibol, Mr. Naswall’s lawyer.
Mr. Vibol said he believed that the charge, which carries a prison sentence of seven to 15 years, was too severe in his client’s case.
“The fact is that he just brought the children for a walk and bought something for them to eat,” he said.
On Sunday, Samleang Seila, country director of anti-pedophile NGO Action pour les Enfants (APLE), whose organization assisted police in their investigation, said that since Mr. Naswall’s arrest, six girls had come forward accusing him of sexual abuse.
Lao Lin, chief of the juvenile protection office at the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said Investigating Judge Im Vannak would question Mr. Naswall further today.
“We hope the court will decide to imprison him [based] on what we have found,” he said.
While waiting to be questioned by Mr. Vannak on Tuesday morning at the court, Mr. Naswall claimed he had been taking the girls to Koh Pich to play a water balloon tossing game when he was arrested.
“I was going to the bathroom,” he said. “We were getting ready to leave.”
He added that the three girls were also urinating when police approached him.
“The evidence was on the ground and they refused to look at it.”
Asked why he was spending the evening with three street children, Mr. Naswall said he was trying to make them happy.
“I get joy, happiness in helping people,” he said.