An educational show on a Sihanoukville beach about barang ot laor, (foreigners are
no good) prompted five teenage boys to report their alleged sexual abuse at the hands
of a German tourist.
On March 18, Michael Ruckrein, 30, was charged with debauchery and detained at the
Sihanoukville jail after it was alleged he paid the boys to engage in a variety of
sex acts on an isolated section of Ochheuteal Beach.
Ruckrien is accused of abusing at least five boys aged between 12 and 14 over seven
consecutive nights, paying each boy between $2 and $4 a night.
But after attending a theatre show written and performed by streetkids on March 14
about pedophiles, the boys tried to engineer Ruckrein's arrest by promising to meet
him that night and returning with police.
Ruckrien was not at the beach where the abuse allegedly took place but was taken
from his guesthouse to the police station.
Later that night, he was released with his passport, a move that was criticized by
M'lop Tapang, the NGO that organized the educational show and had occasional contact
with the five boys through their outreach and school programs.
"The barang [foreigner] was free to leave the country for 72 hours from when
the kids reported the abuse until the arrest," said Maggie Eno, a worker at
"There are three officers in the anti-trafficking police [unit of Sihanoukville]
that were sympathetic to the kids' rights but they could not arrest without the orders
from the Commander," said Eno.
Cooperation between the authorities, M'lop Tapang and Licadho, with input from Christian
Guth, a UNICEF advisor on anti-trafficking and sexual exploitation, prompted Sihanoukville
police to take testimonies from the five boys on March 15 and conduct medical examinations
the following day.
Ruckrien made no attempt to flee and went voluntarily to the police station on March
15 and 16, say witnesses, but was re-arrested on the morning of March 18 and charged
The unofficial translation of Cambodian law published in 2002 by the United Nations,
says the charge of debauchery (article eight) applies to "debauched acts onto
a minor person of below 15 years old, even if there is consent" and is punishable
by 10 to 20 years in prison.
Keo Sokhan, the investigating judge in the case, said that during the March 18 questioning
Ruckrien had denied having sex with the boys, but the judge admitted he "did
not ask him any deep questions".
Sokhan said he had informed the German embassy of the man's arrest and that a lawyer
had been appointed to defend Ruckrien. The investigation was "20 percent"
complete and the suspect would not be eligible for bail, said Sokhan, speaking to
the Post by phone on March 24. Sokhan said Ruckrien had entered Cambodia at Poipet
on November 20 last year and that his visa expired on February 10. He did not know
when the trial would begin.
Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, said the spate of Westerners arrested for child
sex offences recently could be due to a number of factors, including better reporting
of crimes and improved law enforcement training.
Pilorge said that while Westerners made up only "a very small number" of
the increasing number of child sex crimes reported to Licadho, high profile arrests
such as Ruckrien's send a positive message about Cambodia's fight against pedophilia.
"It is very important that child sex offenders know that Cambodia will not tolerate
the sexual abuse of its children, whether the offenders are brought to trial in Cambodia
or in their countries using extra-territorial laws," Pilorge said.