Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

A British national, who was previously arrested in 2005 on charges of child prostitution, stood trial yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court again on charges stemming from the purchase of child prostitution last year in Kandal province.
Presiding judge Oeung Seang, identified British national Michael Julian Leach, a 50-year-old tourist from London, as the individual being charged with the purchase of child prostitution.
The judge said Leach was arrested in September of 2010 at the Sneha One Guesthouse in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district on suspicion of sexually abusing three girls between the ages of 10 and 15. Five others are facing charges based on answers Leach gave to police during his questioning upon arrest.
Four Cambodians: 46-year-old Penh Phath, 42-year-old Nov Nhanh, 48-year-old Pheth Choeun, 46-year-old Sim Savoeun are being charged with being accomplices to child prostitution.
Sem Deth, 45-year-old female guesthouse owner, is being charged with providing a location for child prostitution.
Lawyer for the three victims Nuon Phanith, said Leach was previously arrested in 2005 while he worked as a doctor for a children’s organization in the Phnom Penh and allegedly had sex with underage girls. However, the charges were dropped after the court cited a lack of evidence.
“Today there is plenty of proof and evidence to prove he [Leach] has really committed his crimes. I hope that the court will find justice for the victims. I would like to ask the court to strongly punish him in accordance with law in Cambodia and expel him from the country after he has served his prison sentence,” Noun Phanith said.
He also recommended to the court that Leach be ordered to pay the three victims a total of US$ 15,000 in compensation.
Two of the Cambodians denied their charges as being accomplices yesterday.
“I confess that I used to drive him [Leach] to shop and eat at restaurants in Phnom Penh, but I did not know about his activities. I was not involved in the crimes. Therefore, I would like to ask the court to release me,” Hay Seila said.
Michael Julian Leach and his attorney could not be reached for comments yesterday.
Judge Oeung Seng said that the trial’s verdict would be made on September 8.

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