FORMER Australian Ambassador to Phnom Penh John Holloway is due to face a Canberra
jury on April 30 charged with having underage sex with two Cambodian youths.
It is not known how the youths will testify, whether by video, by satelitte link
or flown in person to appear in court; nor is it known how many charges have been
Holloway, 52, - who worked after his time as ambassador as an advisor to Foreign
Affairs Ministers Prince Norodom Sirivudh and later Ung Huot - will be just the second
Australian to be tried under recently-passed "child sex tourism" laws that
grant courts "extra-territorality", or jurisdiction on matters that occured
off Australian shores. The maximum penalty is 17 years in jail.
Australian Federal police have worked on the case against Holloway since July last
To bring the case to court there must be prima facie evidence on every element of
the charges, and for the case be in the public interest.
The charges against Holloway have been brought by the Australian Director of Public
Prosection, and it is understood that some NGOs in Phnom Penh have been working with
Australian Federal police on gathering evidence.
One source close to the case said that Holloway and two other officials who used
to work for Foreign Affairs - all of whom had had postings in Phnom Penh - first
came to the attention of authorities "ten years ago" after pornographic
material had been discovered in a diplomatic pouch.
The source confirmed however that the present charges against Holloway had only come
under "active consideration" since July 1995.
The Holloway case, the source said, had wide implications "and a lot of quirky
"First, this a tragedy for Holloway, but it's also a tragedy for Australia,
because Australia's trying to project influence into Southeast Asia and made a substantial
investment in UNTAC. It would be unfortunate if that's undermined.
"There's a difficulty too if these [Cambodian] youths get flown over to Australia.
Holloway's defence will argue that they'll say 'yes' to anything.
"Whatever evidence is offered will be faced with the same problem. If it's argued
that the NGOs were over-zealous, or were not experts in questioning kids and could
have been seen to be suggestive in their questioning, then the jury could throw it
out," the source said.
The source said that although possible "contamination" of evidence made
it likely that getting a conviction in this case would be "very, very difficult,"
now was not the most opportune time for anyone - much less a former ambassador -
to be charged with being a pedophile.
"There's a Royal Commission of Inquiry now into corruption in the New South
Wales police force, which must be one of the most corrupt in the world, even considering
Cambodia's," the source said.
"There are allegations that police have been covering up for pedophiles... There
are heightened concerns about this issue now. It's not a good climate to be accused
of pedophilia. And in this case, it's not just the abuse of trust of children, it
is the abuse of trust of high office," the source said.
Holloway has strongly and consistently denied accusations of pedophilia. He was called
a pedophile by an Australian Parliamentary backbencher under privilege in June last
year - something Holloway said appalled and angered him, and had ruined his career.
Holloway said at the time that no matter how much he denied the charges, they would
always now be believed.