The arrest of the French director of a Sihanoukville NGO for child abuse has left the city’s small French community dumbfounded, in large part because of the man’s prominent role in setting up the first formal French school in town.
Philippe Broaly, a former judge from Lyon, was arrested last week and accused of sexually abusing seven boys aged between 12 and 19.
Broaly is the president of Enfants du Cambodge, an NGO which partners Cambodian children with donors in France.
But Broaly was also the president of the Ecole Francaise de Sihanoukville, which now has parents reeling over the allegations, even though the allegations stem from his work with the NGO, not the school.
Eric Gaiddon, a diving instructor who has three children at the school, said Broaly was the driving force behind its establishment.
“Just last year I was fetching my children at his house,” said Gaiddon, explaining that classes were held in Broaly’s home before a new building was constructed.
“None of the parents had heard about this,” he said.
Thanks to Broaly’s efforts, the private school was recognised by the French Embassy in 2013, which helped it obtain teachers and equipment.
No one at the school had heard of any lurid activities on Broaly’s part, said Gaiddon.
“If someone had heard about it, in two days everybody would have known because the community [is so small]”.
The French Embassy confirmed to the Post that it sent a representative to Sihanoukville on Monday to speak with parents about the school’s future, and that it visited Broaly under detention as well.
Khoem Vando, deputy director of field operations for child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said his organisation had heard rumours of abuse at Enfants du Cambodge before but had no evidence to carry out an investigation, something which changed when a tip came through in July from a former teacher.
A representative of Enfants du Cambodge who did not identify herself on the phone said donors would not be fazed.
“He would never do such things.”