When a prominent Russian
investor at the helm of a $300-million investment project gets 13 years in
prison for having sex with a 14-year-old girl, the message seems clear:
Cambodia is no haven for pedophiles.
despite the March 14 conviction of Alexander Trofimov, and a string of other
arrests and prosecutions of Western pedophiles, Cambodia’s fight against sex crime
has only just begun.
too early to tell,” said Steve Morrish, director of Sisha, an anti-trafficking
NGO, who was present at Trofimov’s arrest.
“There’s only just a new
trafficking law, the national task force and the higher-level working group are
all new. It takes at least a year or so to see if it is working. You’ll always
see magnificent changes in the first couple of months but we’ll see what
happens when it starts to filter out.”
2006, Trofimov’s Koh Puos investment group announced a $300-million plan to
develop Koh Puos island off the coast of Sihanoukville.
Trofimov, 41, was arrested on October 17, 2007 at his Sihanoukville house.
accused of assaulting at least 19 girls during his time in Cambodia, making Trofimov the focus of Cambodia’s
largest-ever pedophilia investigation. More trials are expected soon.
Trofimov’s conviction, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced him to 13 years
in jail for debauchery. It also sentenced Cambodian national Phal Vanra, who
procured the girl for Trofimov, to 11 years in prison for conspiracy. Both were
also ordered to pay compensation of $100,000 to the victim.
the hearing on March 11, Trofimov denied he knew the girl and claimed he had
not had sex with her.
victim told the court that Vanra had introduced her to a Frenchman – known to
her as Ema – who had sex with her.
Later the girl said she was
taken to a guest house in Sihanoukville and looked after by a woman known as
Sreypov. Sreypov took her to Trofimov with whom the girl said she had
unprotected sex with four times. Sreypov gave the girl $100, the girl said in
lawyer, Uch Sophal, told the Post on March 19 that his client wanted the
court to do more investigation in order to find the Frenchman and Sreypov,
saying that they were the people who made this crime happen.
“There is no justice for my
client because there is not enough evidence to prove he is guilty,” he said.
added that he had no plans to appeal the verdict and he was not sure if he
would be retained as defense counsel.
said that while Trofimov’s arrest and prosecution is commendable, without the
assistance of NGOs Cambodia’s law enforcement authorities might not have felt
able to act against the wealthy Russian.
NGOs were not involved they would not have touched him,” he said. “He was
paying police. He has money all over – why touch him?”
Major General Bith Kim Hong, director of the anti-human trafficking and
juvenile protection police, said March 18 that the “number of arrests [for
child sex crimes] is increasing and we are sending a serious message to
would-be pedophiles that they will be prosecuted.”
we formed the new National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons our police
authorities have been increasing law enforcement – both investigations and
crackdowns on the issues linked with human trafficking and exploitation and
debauchery,” he said.
anticipated an increase in arrests over the course of 2008 and said action
would be taken not only against the foreigners in such cases but also against
any Cambodians who helped them by procuring children.
will have the same punishment,” he said.
Trofimov’s trial, the brother of the victim claimed that the girl was in fact
16, not 14, and demanded the court throw out the case.
trial against the Russian man was based on the evidence, not just the words or
the appeal of any other relative,” Bith Kim Hong said.
are two other court cases connected to him and the court is examining the
complaint by the other 18 girls,” he said, adding that the other trials will be
prosecution is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of
foreigners. Bith Kim Hong said that last year seven pedophiles were arrested by
his department. The police have caught an American, a Russian, a Canadian, a
British, an Austrian and two German pedophiles, he said.
62-year-old German man, Walter Muntz, was on March 13 jailed for 15 years after
being convicted of sexually abusing a girl while visiting Phnom Penh.
instances of pedophilia by Westerners represent a small percentage of sex crime
government is keen to say Westerners are the problem but in reality Cambodians
are the biggest problem,” Morrish said. “Most of the population is Khmer; it is
Khmers who own and frequent KTV and karaoke bars and brothels.”
Morrish commended the fact
that, at the policy level, the government has undertaken a serious change.
However, he cautioned that their determination to eliminate sexual exploitation
should continue even after Cambodia
has been assessed for the US State department’s trafficking tier rating.
tier system is being reassessed in April this year. Cambodia currently has “tier two
watch” status and will either go up to tier two or down to tier three.