A Cambodian orphanage director who crusaded for years against child sex abuse has been sentenced to three years jail for committing indecent acts on children in his care.
Cambodian orphan crusader jailed for child sex abuse
Children pose for photographs at a Phnom Penh orphanage in Decermber. Photo: Lindsay Murdoch
Authorities raided an Australian run orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2013. Photo: Supplied
American volunteer Ame (left) with three of 65 children at the Poor Street Children and Orphans Training Centre in a suburb of Phnom Penh. Most of the children there are not orphans.Picture: LINDSAY MURDOCH Photo: Lindsay Murdoch
Bangkok: A Cambodian orphanage director who crusaded for years against child sex abuse has been sentenced to three years jail for committing indecent acts on children in his care.
The conviction of 46 year-old Hang Vibol, the director of Our Home Orphanage in Phnom Penh, follows a warning by Tara Winkler, a former NSW Young Australian of the Year, that children are vulnerable to sex predators in Cambodia’s 600 orphanages and residential care institutions.
United Nations agencies and a consortium of 50 non-government-organisations have urged Australians to stop supporting Cambodia’s orphanages, many of which are not registered and are operated as for-profit businesses.
Australians are believed to be the biggest donors of the institutions despite studies showing that most of the 47,900 children living in them have at least one parent and all would be better off living in the communities from which they come.
A Phnom Penh court’s sentencing of Vibol to three years for abusing 11 children under 15 years old has been criticised as too lenient by the organisation where he worked investigating foreign and Cambodian paedophiles.
Seila Samleang, the director of Action Pour Les Enfants , said the organisation was happy with the conviction but dismayed at the “lenient” sentence.
“It is shocking that such a case happened…because he worked actively to protect children’s rights for many years,” he said.
For years Vibol urged courts to impose long jail sentences on convicted child sex abusers in Cambodia, a country where sex tourism is rife.
In 2004 he described the jailing of a New Zealand teacher for 10 years as “the correct sentence that brings justice to the victims”.
But the same year he said many paedophiles escape conviction.
“In Cambodia, the situation is that if people give money to police or the courts, they get off,” he said. “In Cambodia if you have money you can do anything.”
A three-year sentence appears lenient compared with other recent cases and given Vibol was in a position of authority to care for children.
Last year an Australian travel agent Trevor Lake was sentenced to eight years in jail for having sex with underage prostitutes and producing child pornography.
Sydney teacher George Moussallie was sentenced to five years in jail for the sexual abuse of six boys.
Vibol left APLE in 2004 to run Our Home Orphanage where the abuses took place.
The orphanage was closed following his arrest last year and 60 children moved to other care centres.
APLE investigators helped police probe the activities of Vibol who denied the allegations and claimed they were made against him maliciously.
Ms Winkler, who established the Cambodian Children’s Trust in 2007 after rescuing 14 children from abuse at a corrupt Cambodian orphanage, told Fairfax Media that it was “highly unethical to expose vulnerable children to serious risks in order to engage donors and raise funds”.
Many orphanages and residential care centres in Cambodia allow visitors to physically interact with children in intimate ways, such as playing and hugging.
“Even though the majority of people who want to visit centres are good people who only want to help, if they are allowed in to provide love and affection, then the same access is provided to potential predators and sex tourists,” she said.
International research shows orphanages and residential care institutions take a toll on children’s emotional and personal development because they are separated from their families.
This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and seemingly endless broken relationships.
The story Cambodian orphan crusader jailed for child sex abuse first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.