For Mao Rin, not her real name, the past week has sent her back to the time when she was eight or nine years old. She is not sure exactly how old she was when it happened because she has blocked most of it out of her mind.
“I always dreamed about that story,” she said yesterday, referring to the series of sexual assaults she experienced from serial pedophile Alexander Trofimov. Now, however, the nightmares she had learned to shake herself out of have returned as thoughts that shock her while she is awake. “I cannot find the words to describe what I felt when I heard he was released,” she told the Post. “Now, I remember everything he did to me when I was a child.”
Trofimov, who was convicted of sex crimes against 17 girls from 2005 to 2007, most from the coastal resort of Sihanoukville, is now living in a villa next to a primary school behind Sokha Beach, provincial police told the Post yesterday.
He was released on December 20 after receiving a royal pardon. Since then, he has been seen driving around the town in a white Lexus, police said.
Mao Rin is more afraid for her family’s safety than her own. She said she believes Trofimov would not recognise her now that she is a teen. What frightens her is that he knows where her family lives, she said.
Preah Sihanouk police chief Tak Vanntha said officers had been monitoring Trofimov since his release. The company he used to run, Koh Pous (Snake Island) Investment Co, is now selling villas on Snake Island, after investing an estimated US$300 million to develop it, but Trofimov is no longer working for it, Tak Vanntha said.
“We follow him to see if he does what he did before,” he said, adding that Trofimov would be arrested if he committed the same crimes again.
Mao Rin said she would like to see him imprisoned for life or deported. “I don’t want to hear the name of that Russian man again,” she said.
He has at least two names, and may be in pursuit of a third, investigators following the case said. In Russia, he is known as Stansilav Molodyakov. He has two passports, one with each name, according to Samleang Seila, director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants.
Ros Veasna, not her real name, is the mother of one of his victims. As soon as she heard he was free, she told children in her neighbourhood to return home immediately after school or work. “I still remember him. He is sticking to my mind,” she said. “I am afraid he will go around Sihanoukville looking for children to have sex with.”
Another mother whose daughter was sexually assaulted by Trofimov said the girl was safe because she was in Phnom Penh. “I am worried about the children in the town and am afraid he will seek revenge against me,” she added. “I am afraid he can find me, because I did not change my name.”
Seven families have sought protection since Trofimov’s release, APLE’s Samleang Seila said. APLE is leading an effort to have Trofimov deported to his native Russia, where he is wanted for the alleged rape of several girls as young as nine. Russia’s previous attempts to extradite him failed, with Cambodian authorities saying he had to serve his 17-year sentence here before he could be deported. Now that he has been freed, another attempt to extradite him will be made, Samleang Seila said.
During the trials here, victims and their families were terrified of testifying, even though they had protection from NGOs and police, Samleang Seila said. Staff at some of these NGOs have become cautious since Trofimov’s release, citing death threats they had received during his numerous trials, they told the Post.
They are urging international groups to help them, and this should occur within the next week. A spokesperson for Plan Cambodia said yesterday it was “carefully following the case” and would “discuss it with relevant counterparts” for a collective response. Save the Children is doing the same.
The two other pedophiles released last week by royal pardon – one in Sihanoukville and one in Phnom Penh – are both under surveillance by police and NGO staff, according to APLE. German national Alexander Watrin – who had been serving a seven-year sentence for sex crimes against four boys under the age of 15 – was freed from the same prison as Trofimov on the same day. He is staying at a guesthouse in Sihanoukville, APLE said.
The German embassy is unaware of any move so far to seek his extradition, it said yesterday. Privacy laws prevented its staff from commenting further.
Dutch national Rene Paul Martin Aubel was freed on December 23 from Prey Sar prison, where he had been serving a 10-year sentence for sex crimes against six boys in 2005. Aubel had also photographed the boys, most of whom had been shoe shiners he had paid about $10 each for sex.
He is staying at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh, where he registered under a false name and nationality, according to its register. He provided his real age, but listed his occupation as “merchant”, and did not provide the guesthouse with a copy of his passport.
Meanwhile, the controversial royal pardons used to get pedophiles out of prison early have been welcomed by a lawyer who has represented more than 50 of them.
Dun Vibol told the Post that the pardons would be helpful because they would allow lawyers another option besides courts. The early release of pedophiles was “sometimes a good idea” because prison conditions were poor, he said, adding that whether or not they left Cambodia was “up to their conscience”.
The number of foreign pedophiles he is defending is rising, but this is likely a result of NGOs bringing more cases to court rather than a surge in arrivals, he said.
Pedophile cases are lucrative because of their complexity, Dun Vibol said. “They pay more money,” he added. “I hate the pedophiles, but it’s a good business.”