PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday heard the case of a 53-year-old Cambodian man who pleaded not guilty to the charge of purchasing child prostitution, arguing that the girl in question was above the legal age of consent.
Businessman Meas Chanthoeun, 53, was arrested on September 23 during a police raid on a hotel room in 7 Makara district’s Veal Vong commune, which he was sharing with the alleged victim. Keu Sen, 49, and Chan Pov, 32, were also arrested in connection with the case.
Meas Chanthoeun told the court that he had been introduced to the alleged victim through Keu Sen, who he said had asked him if he wanted the girl to become his mistress.
“The girl’s father was having medical treatment, so I gave her US$200 through Chan Pov to help her father in the treatment of his illness,” he said.
He said he then drove the victim to the hotel, where he was arrested.
“We were in the room for only five minutes and I had not touched her,” he said, and added that he thought the girl was over the legal age of consent.
“I really wanted a relationship with the girl as my mistress, as she was 19 at the time, and that is not against the law,” he said.
Court officials spent hours debating the girl’s age, and two family books were entered as evidence. One book indicated that the girl was born in 1991, meaning she would have been 18 at the time of the incident, while another indicated that she was born in 1995, meaning she would have been 14.
The victim’s father, Van Phal, told the court his daughter was born in 1991. “When her first family book registered that she was born in 1995, there was confusion in the year [of birth],” he said during the hearing.
Thoy Sokun, one of Meas Chanthoeun’s three defence lawyers, said this statement was sufficient proof that she is now 19.
“The victim’s real age is 19 according to the confirmation from her parents, which is legal under the human trafficking law,” he said.
Uk Saroeun, the victim’s lawyer, said his client was seeking $10,000 in compensation from the suspects.
Presiding judge Ke Sokhan said a verdict would be read out on June 10.