Volunteer at Anti-Sex Trafficking NGO on Trial for Rape

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday heard the case of a Cambodian volunteer for a Christian anti-sex trafficking NGO who is charged with raping four boys who were under his care.

Sim Sam, 20, a former volunteer with Agape International Missions NGO, is on trial for allegedly raping four boys, aged 8 to 12, in November 2013 at Agape’s safe house for vulnerable and abandoned children in Russei Keo district.

The hearing was closed to the public, but the four boys, who remain in Agape’s care, testified against Mr. Sam, according to Don Brewster, executive director of Agape, who also testified.

Lim Chanlida, the lawyer for the boys and Agape, said Mr. Sam, who was arrested in April, confessed to one of the rapes but denied the other three in court Tuesday.

Mr. Brewster was repentant for failing to protect the boys at his NGO.

“In this case we failed and there’s no question about that,” Mr. Brewster said Tuesday at his office in the NGO’s Svay Pak commune safe house, which offers educational programs during the day and a place to sleep for abandoned children at night.

“The mistake we made is that we normally don’t take volunteers that haven’t completed our two-year training program,” he said.

Mr. Sam, along with five other employees, was left to care for 18 boys overnight at the safe house after volunteering for six months with Agape, where he had helped organize art activities.

Previously, volunteers would not be asked to care for children unless they had a high school diploma and had completed Agape’s two-year child welfare program.

But for a brief period in 2013, Mr. Brewster changed the policy, and Mr. Sam had completed neither requirement when he was left to care for children overnight.

“I made the decision that if we kept that vetting process, we were never going to get young people in the community to be part of the solution,” Mr. Brewster said. “That was a poor decision to do that on my part.”

Mr. Brewster has since reverted back to his old system, but has not introduced any new vetting measures. Criminal background checks are not part of the process for Cambodian staffers, Mr. Brewster said, because he cannot rely on authorities to provide him with proper information.

“We have nine years of a pretty damn good record,” he said. “We’re not perfect.”

A verdict in the case is expected on October 16.

[email protected]; [email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.