American gets 10 years' jail for buying child sex in Cambodia

American Brian Naswall (right), the 53-year-old CEO of Aero Cambodia, walks from a prison's van as a Cambodian policeman stands guard upon his arrival at Phnom Penh municipal court.
American Brian Naswall (right), the 53-year-old CEO of Aero Cambodia, walks from a prison's van as a Cambodian policeman stands guard upon his arrival at Phnom Penh municipal court.PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia on Tuesday (June 14) sentenced an American man to a decade in jail for sexually abusing girls as young as five, the latest effort to punish foreign paedophiles in the impoverished country.

Brian Naswall, the 53-year-old chief executive of Aero Cambodia, a small aviation firm based in Phnom Penh, was arrested last year, reportedly in the act of abusing three underage girls.

Since he was detained, a total of nine victims have accused Naswall of abuse.

Naswall denied the charges during his trial and claimed the case was fabricated.

But Phnom Penh's Municipal court on Tuesday found the American guilty of engaging in child prostitution and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

The court also ordered Naswall to pay US$16,000 in compensation, which will be split among eight victims.

The director of Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a non-governmental organisation that hunts down suspected foreign paedophiles in Cambodia, called for Naswall to be deported after he serves his sentence.

"We applaud the ruling. It is reasonable and acceptable," APLE director Seila Samleang said.

A member of Naswall's legal team told reporters that his client would appeal the ruling.

Cambodia's grim reputation as a child sex hub attracted global attention in 2002 when British glam rocker and serial paedophile Gary Glitter was deported over suspected sexual offences.

The country launched a drive in 2003 to shed its reputation as a haven for foreign paedophiles.

Dozens of foreigners have since been prosecuted for child sex crimes but there are still wide gaps in policing.

A landmark study released last month by a coalition of nearly 70 child protection agencies looking at child sex abuse around the world said that while some successes have been made in South-east Asia, paedophilia remains an "enduring phenomenon that has plagued the region for several decades".