A FRENCH paedophile walked free from Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Tuesday, despite having been convicted of indecent acts against a 12-year-old boy and sentenced to one year in prison.
Judge Tang Sunlay handed down the sentence in a hearing Tuesday, but the man, who has been in pretrial detention for nine months, was released after the remaining three months of his sentence were suspended. He was also ordered to pay US$50 compensation to one of his victims.
Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard, 44, was arrested August 4 last year for sexually abusing five Cambodian boys between the ages of 11 and 16 at his rented home in Sihanoukville.
Blanchard was charged with purchasing child prostitution and indecent acts but was only convicted of the latter charge, which carries a relatively light sentence of one to three years.
Samleang Seila, country director of the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said he was "very disappointed" with the light sentence handed down by the court, and that the $50 did not come close to "compensating" the victim.
"The court should have severely punished him since he has had an adverse impact on social morality," he said.
"Our organisation has observed that the man has been involved with at least 20 boys since 2005."
The Kingdom is struggling to shed a reputation as a haven for underage sex offenders, putting dozens of foreigners in jail on paedophilia charges since 2003.