Former orphanage director and one-time head of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) Hang Vibol was yesterday convicted of sexually abusing six children living under his care and sentenced to three years in prison, according to a Phnom Penh Municipal Court official.
Presiding judge Kim Rathnarin found Vibol, the former director of Our Home orphanage, guilty of committing indecent acts against a minor under 15 years old, the official, who declined to be named, said.
The 46-year-old was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $1,250 compensation to four of the five plaintiffs in the case, who were minors at the time, the official said.
The other plaintiff, a parent with two children, will get $2,500, he added.
Vibol, who directed APLE between 2003 and 2004, was arrested in March of last year, based on complaints from at least 12 children living at his orphanage, which he started after leaving APLE.
Some of the victims withdrew their complaints, current APLE director Samleang Seila said yesterday, adding the group would appeal because they believed the sentence too lenient and compensation too little.
“Many children have severe trauma and need more money to spend on their treatment,” he said.
APLE’s connection to the case, which it helped investigate, came under scrutiny during the trial in October, when Vibol claimed the allegations against him were fabricated by APLE founder Thierry Darnaudet and ex-staffer Jean Marie Anno.
According to Vibol’s lawyer at the time, the pair was aggrieved because Vibol reported them to authorities for allegedly embezzling donor funds.
Speaking via phone from France yesterday, Darnaudet said he was “shocked” to learn of the conviction, though he recalled his former colleague’s “evil” streak.
He said Vibol’s claims against him were made-up to keep him out of the country, because Vibol saw him as a threat to his donor funds.
While Darnaudet conceded there was a conflict of interest in APLE investigating the case, he maintained it was warranted.
“We knew that it was going to look strange for most people, but we thought deeply about that and decided at the end of the day, if it is true that some of these children are being abused, that’s our job, that’s our work, to do something about that.”
Vibol’s defence lawyer, Suy Sokhon, could not be reached yesterday.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton