Chief of legal aid group says activists, police conspire to snare foreign men
THE director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal aid organisation, has accused local NGOs and police of engaging in entrapment when pursuing paedophilia cases, reiterating allegations that have cropped up occasionally in court – only to be denied by police officials and child protection activists.
During a presentation on implementation of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, which was passed in 2008, Sok Sam Oeun said Friday that the practice of entrapment must cease immediately.
“NGO activists and police make traps with the mother of a young girl and a sex buyer,” he said. “As a result, the mother, daughter and buyer are arrested. This practice must be stopped. The duty of police is to prevent people from committing any crime, not to persuade them.”
Reached on Sunday, Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, declined to say how frequently he believes entrapment occurs. “I only know that this is what happens, and I want it to stop,” he said.
He also declined to name the specific NGOs he was referring to in his speech, which was delivered Friday during a conference on migration in the capital.
But Dun Vibol, a defence lawyer who often represents foreign paedophilia suspects, on Sunday repeated claims previously made in court that Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the most prominent NGO fighting the sexual exploitation of children, engaged in entrapment as part of its
investigations. He also said he believed law enforcement was complicit in the practice
“From my experience, in most child sex cases related to foreigners, they have been trapped by local NGO Action Pour Les Enfants with local police to nab foreigners, without preventing the crime from happening. They let the crime occur, and then arrest the foreigners,” he said.
He referred in particular to the case of Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret, a Frenchman who received a three-year suspended sentence in January after being found guilty of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old girl. Chong Eav Heng, Demeret’s defence lawyer, claimed during the trial that police had engaged in entrapment against his client.
Presiding Judge Chan Madina seemed to agree at the time, accusing the victim of having been involved in similar schemes as part of cases against four other foreigners.
Prior to the incident that led to Demeret’s conviction, the girl was being cared for at a shelter run by a local NGO, leading Dun Vibol to question whether the crime could have been prevented in the first place.
“Demeret was being investigated by the NGO’s caseworkers and police when they saw him take the girl to sleep with,” he said. “For this case, I was wondering why the girl was freed from the shelter and came to do business as a prostitute with Demeret.”
A representative from the NGO could not be reached for comment Sunday.
But Samleang Seila, country director for APLE, which represented the girl, said Dun Vibol’s allegations were part of “a strategy of the defence lawyers to attack the case, to attack APLE”.
He rejected the entrapment allegations, saying, “If anyone wants to find out, or if there is any kind of evidence, they can check with us.”
“Dun Vibol is trying to make himself famous,” he added. “He would do anything to get his client free from court.”
He went on to express concern that entrapment allegations could compromise the fight against paedophilia in Cambodia.
“People will come to Cambodia and use this as a defence. This defence will increase,” he said.
“It will create complications, and [perpetrators] will use this as justification”.
Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, denied Dun Vibol’s allegations that police had been involved in cases of entrapment of paedophiles.
“Our police have never entrapped foreigners, but we always investigate when they are suspected of child sexual abuse,” he said. “When we see foreigners are with minors, like walking with them on the streets, we investigate in order to find any evidence to press charges by questioning the victims.”