PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Thursday found three men guilty of purchasing child prostitution in a case involving a woman whose age has been disputed by prosecutors and defence lawyers.
The three defendants in the case – 53-year-old businessman Meas Chanthoeun, 49-year-old Ken Sen and 32-year-old Chan Pov – each received three-year sentences that were suspended to 18 months.
On September 23 last year, police arrested Meas Chanthoeun in a raid at a guesthouse in Prampi Makara district’s Veal Vong commune, where he was sharing a room with the victim.
During a hearing on May 19, Meas Chanthoeun said he believed the victim was 19 at the time, and that he had asked her to become his mistress. He acknowledged having given Chan Pov US$200 to give to the victim, but said he had done so “to help her father in the treatment of his illness”.
He also said he had been introduced to the victim through Ken Sen.
Court officials spent hours debating the victim’s age, and two family books were entered as evidence. One book said that she was born in 1991, indicating that she would have been 18 at the time of the raid, whereas another said that she was born in 1995, indicating that she would have been 14.
Presiding judge Ke Sokhan said Thursday that the court had determined that the victim was younger than 18 at the time of the incident. The verdict he read out did not include any reference to compensation.
The victim and her lawyers were not present at the hearing Thursday.
Tep Monycheat, a lawyer for the defendants, said he had not had the chance to discuss with his clients whether they would appeal.
“I have no right to force my clients to appeal or not,” he said.
Meas Chanthoeun told reporters he had not yet decided whether to pursue the case further.
“I will discuss with my lawyer whether to appeal or not,” he said.