The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Thorn Vichet, 26, to five years in prison for committing indecent acts against a minor under 15 years of age, an offence under Article 42 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, said child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (Aple) on Tuesday.

Article 42 stipulates that a person who engages in sexual intercourse with another person under 15 shall be punished with imprisonment of between five and 10 years.

However, Aple said the court offered to suspend two years of Vichet’s sentence provided he pays the victim $3,000 in compensation.

Vichet was arrested by Daun Penh district police on April 25 for engaging in sexual acts with an 11-year-old.

The acts happened on April 22 after Vichet asked the victim out for the night and later sexually abused her in his room.

According to the website of the National Police, the victim’s grandfather filed a complaint with Daun Penh district police to arrest Vichet, a resident of Sangkat Srah Chak commune who roasts ducks for a living. He confessed to the crime.

The victim had since received psychological therapy and legal services from Aple upon the recommendation of the district’s Commune Committee for Women and Children.

The victim was satisfied with the compensation granted, which is essential for the recovery process, said Aple.

While they respected the court’s decision, Aple programme director Kheom Vando said: “In general, there should be no suspension of sentence.

“First, he had already abused the child. Secondly, the victim has to endure long-term damage. Lastly, it could encourage others to commit the same crime, which would endanger children.

“In this case, he received a light sentence. So, when he leaves the prison, there is a possible risk to the victim. We have seen some cases in the past where victims were threatened or pressured by offenders to settle or to withdraw the case,” Vando said.