A Cambodian child-protection group sharply criticized a Cambodian court on Tuesday for handing down lenient sentences to two French nationals convicted of sexually abusing teenage boys, with the two possibly set for release in as little as three weeks.
Denis Page, 63, and Jean Vidon, 67, were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with one year suspended. They had been held in pre-trial detention since their arrest in October 2011 for luring two teenage boys, aged 15 and 17, from a park and paying them for sex.
In a statement, Seila Samleang, country director for the rights group Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said he was “disappointed that the judge failed to sentence the two offenders to the full extent of the law, which would have meant a jail term of five years.”
However, he praised the Battambang Provincial Court’s additional order that the men be deported from Cambodia after serving their sentences, calling the move necessary “for the sake of the protection of Cambodian and other children.”
Following the men’s Sept. 13 trial, Hong Sambath, the boys’ lawyer, said that the two men had lured the boys to their hotel room and offered them $10 to $20 in return for sex, APLE said.
Denis Page had previously been convicted in France and Thailand for sex offenses against children, the group said.
During their trial, the men told the court that they had brought the boys to their room only to give them “a massage,” Sambath said.
“I’m not satisfied because the sentences are lenient. I will discuss it with my clients and we may appeal,” Sambath told Agence France Presse.
Dozens of foreigners have been jailed in Cambodia for sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-pedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.
In June, Cambodian authorities deported a Russian businessman convicted of sexually abusing more than a dozen Cambodian girls.
Alexander Trofimov was arrested in Cambodia in October 2007 on charges of buying sex from 17 girls between the ages of six and 13 and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The sentence was reduced to eight years on appeal, and he was later pardoned by Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni in December 2011 in a move that was widely criticized by anti-trafficking groups.
Found in June to be living with an underage girl, Trofimov was arrested again and was expelled from the country.
Reported by Richard Finney.