Cambodia orphanage director jailed for abusing children

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - A court on Wednesday (Feb 10) jailed a Cambodian orphanage director who once crusaded against child abuse for three years for committing "indecent acts" against children in his care.

Hang Vibol, 46, the director of Our Home orphanage in Phnom Penh, has been in custody since his arrest last year on charges of abusing 11 children.

He was formerly a director of a prominent NGO called Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), which hunts down suspected paedophiles active in Cambodia - an impoverished country with a reputation for attracting foreign child sex offenders.

Vibol left the organisation in 2004 to run the Our Home orphanage, where the alleged abuses took place. His former colleagues at APLE helped the police probe into him.

The Phnom Penh municipal court on Wednesday afternoon sentenced him to three years in prison for "indecent acts against 11 minors aged under 15 years old".

He was also fined about US$2,000 (S$2,787) and ordered to pay compensation of a total of US$7,500 to five of his victims.

Seila Samleang, the current director of APLE, said the organisation was happy at the conviction but dismayed at the "lenient" sentence.

"It is shocking that such case happened... because he worked actively to protect children's rights for many years," he added.

Vibol denied the allegations and said he would appeal the conviction.

"It is very unjust. I did not commit the allegations," he told reporters at the court before being returned to jail.

During his trial last year, Vibol claimed the accusations against him had been made maliciously.

The Our Home orphanage was shut down after Vibol's arrest last March and some 60 children were moved to other care centres.

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

Dozens of foreigners have since been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries.

But campaigners say sentences are still too short and many foreign paedophiles operate with relative impunity.