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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Street kids help in arrest of German tourist

Street kids help in arrest of German tourist

An educational show on a Sihanoukville beach about barang ot laor, (foreigners are

no good) prompted five teenage boys to report their alleged sexual abuse at the hands

of a German tourist.

On March 18, Michael Ruckrein, 30, was charged with debauchery and detained at the

Sihanoukville jail after it was alleged he paid the boys to engage in a variety of

sex acts on an isolated section of Ochheuteal Beach.

Ruckrien is accused of abusing at least five boys aged between 12 and 14 over seven

consecutive nights, paying each boy between $2 and $4 a night.

But after attending a theatre show written and performed by streetkids on March 14

about pedophiles, the boys tried to engineer Ruckrein's arrest by promising to meet

him that night and returning with police.

Ruckrien was not at the beach where the abuse allegedly took place but was taken

from his guesthouse to the police station.

Later that night, he was released with his passport, a move that was criticized by

M'lop Tapang, the NGO that organized the educational show and had occasional contact

with the five boys through their outreach and school programs.

"The barang [foreigner] was free to leave the country for 72 hours from when

the kids reported the abuse until the arrest," said Maggie Eno, a worker at

M'lop Tapang.

"There are three officers in the anti-trafficking police [unit of Sihanoukville]

that were sympathetic to the kids' rights but they could not arrest without the orders

from the Commander," said Eno.

Cooperation between the authorities, M'lop Tapang and Licadho, with input from Christian

Guth, a UNICEF advisor on anti-trafficking and sexual exploitation, prompted Sihanoukville

police to take testimonies from the five boys on March 15 and conduct medical examinations

the following day.

Ruckrien made no attempt to flee and went voluntarily to the police station on March

15 and 16, say witnesses, but was re-arrested on the morning of March 18 and charged

with debauchery.

The unofficial translation of Cambodian law published in 2002 by the United Nations,

says the charge of debauchery (article eight) applies to "debauched acts onto

a minor person of below 15 years old, even if there is consent" and is punishable

by 10 to 20 years in prison.

Keo Sokhan, the investigating judge in the case, said that during the March 18 questioning

Ruckrien had denied having sex with the boys, but the judge admitted he "did

not ask him any deep questions".

Sokhan said he had informed the German embassy of the man's arrest and that a lawyer

had been appointed to defend Ruckrien. The investigation was "20 percent"

complete and the suspect would not be eligible for bail, said Sokhan, speaking to

the Post by phone on March 24. Sokhan said Ruckrien had entered Cambodia at Poipet

on November 20 last year and that his visa expired on February 10. He did not know

when the trial would begin.

Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, said the spate of Westerners arrested for child

sex offences recently could be due to a number of factors, including better reporting

of crimes and improved law enforcement training.

Pilorge said that while Westerners made up only "a very small number" of

the increasing number of child sex crimes reported to Licadho, high profile arrests

such as Ruckrien's send a positive message about Cambodia's fight against pedophilia.

"It is very important that child sex offenders know that Cambodia will not tolerate

the sexual abuse of its children, whether the offenders are brought to trial in Cambodia

or in their countries using extra-territorial laws," Pilorge said.

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