T HE Austrian man believed to be the first foreign pedophile convicted in
Cambodia lived in a small Phnom Penh house where he was regularly visited by
small boys "with dirty feet and no shoes".
His landlady says the man at
first welcomed the boys, apparently streetchildren, but later asked them to be
locked out because they were demanding money from him.
identified as Josef Schlik (though is surname is also spelled as Sehilk and
Sechilk on court records), was convicted on June 2 of committing sexual acts
with two boys.
He received a one year suspended prison sentence -
described by one child care worker as "ridiculous" - and was released by the
Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
He later moved out of his second-floor home
in Street 111, where landlady Hong Navy said six or seven boys often visited
"They would come and knock on the gate," said Navy. "Sometimes the
gate was open and they came in...they would go upstairs and stay there for an
hour and then leave. Sometimes I said 'I will not allow you to come in', but he
would let them in."
Later, Schlik several times asked her to lock the
children out because they were asking for money. The boys would stand outside
the gate cursing.
She said the boys usually visited him in groups of two
or three, but sometimes all at the same time.
The boys looked like they
were aged between 10-14 and were unkempt and poorly clothed.
strange to me. There are a lot of beautiful women in Phnom Penh. Why does a man
need boys with dirty feet and no shoes?"
She said Schlik lived with a
Thai man, aged in his 20s, who was his "cook". The pair, who said they had come
from Thailand, had moved into the house, along with a Khmer man, four months
ago. The Khmer man stayed about a month before leaving.
Navy said she did
not know what the Austrian - described as a businessman by court officials - did
for a living but he spent most of his time at the house.
on June 8, said the man and his Thai friend had moved out of the house the day
before. They had loaded their possessions on a vehicle, apparently a taxi, and
said they would spend a night at hotel before leaving Cambodia.
us he was going back to Thailand, but maybe he told us a lie. I don't
She presumed the man had moved out of her house because he was
humiliated - news of his arrest had spread quickly - though she professed that
she still respected him "very much".
Schlik, aged 52, was arrested on the
night of May 31 and pleaded guilty to child sex charges in Phnom Penh Municipal
Court three days later.
He admitted to the court committing sexual acts
with two boys aged 13 or 14, according to his verbal "confession" recorded in
"The children agreed to sleep with me because they
wanted money," the documents, in Khmer, quote him saying.
"I have been
involved with the sexual [use] of the two children, who are boys. I sucked their
penises. I believe they are 13 or 14 years-old."
Schlik is quoted as
saying he paid the boys 10,000 riels each and gave them some food.
and court officials say it was, to their knowledge, the first prosecution of a
foreigner for such a crime.
The suspended sentence given to him, however,
has disappointed child care groups.
Schlik was charged under Article 42
of the UNTAC penal law, which provides for 2-6 years' imprisonment for
procuring, enticing or leading away minors for prostitution, or for sexually
exploiting minors even with their consent.
The law allows judges to
partially or totally suspend sentences.
Judge Oum Sarith, the court
president, would not discuss his sentence. But court officials said one reason
he cited for the suspending Schlik's jail sentence was that the victims were not
injured by his actions.
One child care worker, who would not be named,
described the sentence as ridiculous and "a big mistake" which would do little
to deter pedophiles.
"Everything the judge did was wrong. He made a big
mistake and he knows that everybody knows that."
Meanwhile, a Phnom Penh
policeman who dealt with Schlik's prosecution said he knew of two other recent
cases where police tried to question suspected foreign
Policeman Mok Kim Phai, assigned to a unit dealing with
crimes by foreigners, said that twice in the past two months foreign men had
been seen apparently soliciting sex from young boys.
The men had run off
when police officers had approached them.
Phai said he had been told
second-hand that foreign pedophiles were common in Phnom Penh, but had little
evidence of that.
He said the police would investigate any complaints
about child sex crimes. He agreed that the police "face difficulties" in
gathering evidence on pedophiles' crimes but would not elaborate.
officers said they visited Schlik on the night of May 31 after receiving a
complaint from two boys.
The Austrian was taken to the local district
police station and arrested after he reportedly admitted paying the boys for
sexual favors. Police officers indicated there was physical evidence of sexual
abuse of the boys.