French sex abusers get ‘lenient’ punishment

A Cambodian court on Tuesday handed two Frenchmen partially suspended two-year prison sentences for sexually abusing teenage boys, a punishment criticised as too lenient by the victims' lawyer.

Denis Page, 63, and Jean Vidon, 67, were arrested on October 25th last year for paying for sex with the boys aged 15 and 17 in a hotel room in northwestern Battambang province.

The court ordered them to serve one year in jail from the day of their arrest and suspended the remaining year, meaning they could soon be released although the boys could appeal the verdict.

"I'm not satisfied because the sentences are lenient. I will discuss it with my clients and we may appeal," said the victims' lawyer, Hong Sambath.

The court also ordered the French nationals to pay each victim four million riel (around $1,000) in compensation and be deported after serving their time.

During their trial, the defendants denied having sex with the boys and said they had brought them to their hotel to perform massages, according to anti-paedophile group Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), which monitored the case.

APLE also said Page had prior rape convictions in France, where he is on a sex offender registry list, and was also sentenced to one year in jail on paedophilia charges in Thailand in 1997.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

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