American convicted of child sex abuse in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court has sentenced an American man to 2 ½ years in prison on charges of sexually abusing three underage girls, a court official and social activist said Friday.

Ying Srang, spokesman for the provincial court in Siem Reap, site of the famed Angkor Wat temples, said Rugh James Cline was convicted Thursday of indecent acts against minors under 15 years of age for paying three girls for sex during visits in February and May this year.

An NGO that investigates suspected foreign pedophiles in Cambodia, Action Pour Les Enfants, said the victims told police that he paid them a total of $120. The group, known by the acronym APLE, identified Cline as a lawyer.

The court ordered Cline, who pleaded not guilty, to pay 15 million riels ($3,750) in compensation to each of the girls.

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Poverty and poor law enforcement have made Cambodia a magnet for foreign pedophiles, though anti-human trafficking police aided by groups such as APLE try to crack down on sex offenders.

“I welcome the verdict, however the crime of purchase of child prostitution should have been charged as the offender took advantage of the victims, coercing them with money,” APLE’s executive director, Seila Samleang, said in a statement. “This would’ve represented a longer jail sentence.” The penalty for purchase of child prostitution is seven to 15 years’ imprisonment when the child is under 15 years old.

Seila Samleang urged Cambodian authorities to deport foreign sex offenders after they complete their prison terms because they could pose a risk to other local children.

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