THE Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a French national found guilty of committing indecent acts with a 12-year-old boy and sentenced him to one year and seven months in prison. The decision followed an appeal filed by prosecutors who believed his original sentence had been too light.
Michel Roger Blanchard, 44, was arrested in August 2008 and charged with committing indecent acts with five boys between the ages of 11 and 16 at his rented home in Sihanoukville. In the case of the 12-year-old, he was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay US$50 in compensation. He had already served nine months of pretrial detention, and the Municipal Court suspended the final three months. But he remained in prison as prosecutors worked on an appeal.
The sentence handed down Thursday will replace the old one. Peng Maneth, a lawyer provided for the victim by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said Blanchard had already served a total of one year and six months of the new sentence, and would be released in March this year.
“It is a case that has caused suffering for the victim’s family, and the victim lost his beloved mother who was killed in a robbery a few days before the first hearing [in 2008], after she had received $3,000 from the accused in return for dropping the complaint,” she said.
The death “left behind three orphaned children who are now being cared for at a local NGO shelter”.
Peng Maneth expressed disappointment that the Appeal Court’s decision failed to include an order for Blanchard to be deportated once his jail term expires, arguing that he still poses a significant risk to children in Cambodia.
But Judge Njung Thol said the court did not wish to tarnish Blanchard’s reputation without further proof that he was a sex tourist.
“We haven’t made a thorough investigation into whether he was a sex tourist or a businessman,” he said, adding that if Blanchard re-offends, he will be treated as a sex tourist and deported.
Samleang Seila, country director of APLE, said the man had a history of paedophilia before he was sentenced in 2008.
“He was once arrested in 2003 for sexually abusing boys, but was released after giving the children money to drop their complaints,” he said.
Blanchard’s lawyer, Dy Borima, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.