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Court sentences three in ’09 abduction case

Court sentences three in ’09 abduction case

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday convicted and sentenced a Cambodian couple and a Korean man to three years in jail each for the unlawful removal of a 17-year-old girl, who was drugged and delivered by the couple to the Korean man’s hotel room in July 2009.

Yoo Bong Hwan, 38, was arrested on July 18, 2009 at a Korean hotel in Phnom Penh following a complaint by the victim’s family. The Supreme Court decided on December 31 to release him on bail after he had been denied release by the Appeal Court.

Yoo Bong-hwan, who was convicted in absentia after failing to appear in court Tuesday, was originally charged with rape and unlawful removal with a purpose.

However, the rape charge was dropped during a hearing on March 26, and the latter charge – which would have carried a maximum penalty of 15 years – was reduced to simple unlawful removal under Article 9 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. The Cambodian couple’s charges were also downgraded to unlawful removal during Tuesday’s hearing.

Judge Lim Makaron sentenced the Cambodian man, Theng Kimsreng, 35, and his wife, Buth Vicheka, 25, to three years in prison, starting from the date of the couple’s arrest last July. However, he announced that two years of the woman’s sentence would be suspended.

The judge told the court that the couple had promised to find a job for the underage girl at a casino in Svay Rieng province, but had instead drugged her with sleeping pills and transferred her to Yoo Bong-hwan’s hotel room, where he allegedly raped her.

The three perpetrators of the crime were also ordered by the court to pay the victim’s family a total compensation of US$3,000, he added.

Samleang Seila, country director for Action Pours Les Enfants, a children’s rights organisation, applauded the outcome of the case Tuesday.

“The court’s conviction was acceptable because it carried the maximum sentence against the Korean man and Cambodian couple,” he said.

However, he added that it was not consistent for the Korean man to be released on bail while the Cambodian couple was kept in prison pending the trial.