Monday, December 29, 2014

# 76 When it comes to accusations of intimidation, bribery and coercion of children to make or withdraw accusations of sexual abuse, who is telling the truth?

Dr Kek Pung
President, LICADHO
Phnom Penh

29th  Dec 2014

Dear Dr Pung

I continue to be overwhelmed with information relevant to the activities of Action Pour les Enfants this past decade. There is much more than I can deal with but to whom could I give this information such that it would result in an independent investigation? There is no-one. No body. No organization. No NGO. Fraudulent NGOs know that no-one, including LICADHO, is interested in facts, evidence or truth when it comes to men accused of sex crimes and they can  and do capitalize on this knowledge.

I have a suggestion as to how LICADHO could, if it so desired, set in motion an investigation in such a way as to not target any one NGO.

Firstly, I wish to quote from an article in an issue of the Phnom Penh Post last week concerning allegation of sex abuse on the part of a Mr Johnson:

After Mr. Johnson’s arrest in Cambodia, a separate investigation by anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) revealed numerous claims of abuse committed by Mr. Johnson at his Home of Hope orphanage in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun commune, which cared for at least 30 children and teenagers.
APLE country director Samleang Seila said Tuesday that the abuses included touching of the five boys’ genitals as well as oral and anal sex.
During the course of the trial, however, all of the victims either recanted or changed their statements. Mr. Seila said he thinks this was because they were afraid to lose financial support from Mr. Johnson.
“I also think the relationship for some victims with Johnson is still quite close, and they did not want to see Johnson deported,” he said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ultimately found Mr. Johnson guilty of committing indecent acts against boys under the age of 15.
While sitting outside his cell at the immigration department on Monday, Mr. Johnson said he was innocent and accused APLE of intimidating and coercing the five victims to testify against him. This, he said, was so APLE could use his conviction to court new donors.
“At some point…they started focusing on numbers, and when they started focusing on numbers they lost line of sight with fact,” he said…
APLE’s Mr. Seila, however, said Mr. Johnson’s accusations that his NGO pursued him for the sake of money were baseless.
“This is ridiculous, there is no reason at all we would do this,” he said.
Mr. Seila also said that none of the boys or their families was intimidated or coerced during the investigation.
Who is telling the truth here? Mr Johnson or Mr Seila?

Allegations such as this have been leveled against APLE many times this past decade – namely they APLE has, through either financial inducements or threats, acquired statements from children regarding alleged sexual abuse that are false, in order to secure convictions.

It must be acknowledged that men accused of sex crimes (or the lawyers representing them) can also offer inducements to the materially poor families of children they have been accused  of abusing - to get the children to deny having made their original complaint or to change their complaint in a way that is to the advantage of the accused.

How can we ever know who has made the threats and/or inducements – APLE or the accused? The same applies, of course, to all NGOs involved in the investigating of crimes against children whose funding is dependent of securing convictions.

Before addressing this question, another must be asked:

How common, word-wide, are false allegations of child sexual abuse?

The following is but one of many descriptions of false allegations to be found on the internet:  

A false allegation of child sexual abuse is an accusation that a person committed one or more acts of child sexual abuse when in reality there was no perpetration of abuse by the accused person as alleged. Such accusations can be brought by the alleged victim, or by another person on the alleged victim's behalf. Studies of child abuse allegations suggest that the overall rate of false accusation is under 10%. Of the allegations determined to be false, only a small portion originated with the child, the studies showed; most false allegations originated with an adult bringing the accusations on behalf of a child, and of those, a large majority occurred in the context of divorce and child-custody battles. Another possible motive is revenge by the person making the allegation against the accused person. There is also evidence that the UK (and formerly the New Zealand) systems of paying substantial compensation to alleged victims and their parents without requiring proof of the allegation, can provide a motive for making false allegations.

If false allegations in the ‘developed world’ run to 10%, to what percentage do they run in Cambodia? Is it possible to find out? Is LICADHO interested in finding out?

Now, to the question of who is to be believed in the case mentioned above? Mr Johnson or Mr Seila?


Talk to the children who have made statements against the accused.

There are highly trained professionals in (for want of a better expression) the ‘developed world’ who know how to elicit information from children who may have been sexually abused but who may also have been coached by parents, NGOs, police or others to provide answers that suit an accuser’s particular agenda. A wife may, for instance, induce a child to accuse her father of sexual abuse in order to gain custody or as a bargaining chip in a divorce proceeding. And a father may coach his daughter to accuse her mother’s new boyfriend of sexual abuse in order that he can acquire custody. And so on.

An untrained amateur may be inclined to believe the child whereas a trained professional would (and should) be as close to 100% sure as possible that the child is speaking the truth and has not been coached. 

Such a university-trained professional, trained in child psychology, child welfare, could, without causing trauma to a child, make an assessment as to the reliability of the child’s testimony. This happens all the time in Britain, in Australia, in the US and so on. It does not happen in Cambodia.  Why not? Why is the assessment of the reliability of children’s evidence left up to amatuers?

Is it appropriate for any NGO to investigate an allegation of sex abuse, be actively involved in prosecuting the alleged perpetrator, without any independent trained professional (with no vested interest in the outcome of the case) interviewing the children? All too often, in Cambodia,  the children are interviewed by no-one other than the NGO with a vested interest in the outcome of the case. And all too often the children themselves are not available to be cross-examined in court or to have their testimony tested in any way by defense counsel.

My suggestion is that LICADHO (perhaps in conjunction with ADHOC, SISHA, CEOP and other NGOs involved in the investigation of sex abuse) pool their financial resources to employ some highly experienced, totally independent child welfare experts to talk with children whose testimony has led to men being jailed or acquitted under contentious circumstances. By this I mean, men who have been acquitted as a result of children changing their testimony and men who have been found guilty despite the children denying that any sexual abuse took place.

Such an independent investigation would provide some solid evidence as to whether or not the coaching of children is widespread or takes place in isolated instances only. Or perhaps not at all.

Whilst my immediate concern is with the multiple allegations that have been made against APLE I suggest that such an independent investigation not be limited to any one NGO but be applied to a cross-section of sex abuse cases from the last few years – regardless of which NGOs may have been involved in the investigations, and which NGOs may have been providing legal assistance to the alleged victims. Perhaps the cases to be looked at could be chosen in a random way, since this exercise, at least at the outset, is not to accuse any particular NGO or accused person of ‘coaching’, intimidation or bribery, but to ascertain what percentage of convictions involve false alletgations.

It is hard to see how any NGO committed to justice and the protection of human rights (in practice as well as theory) could possibly object to such an independent investigation. Given that participation in such an investigation would be voluntary it would be interesting to see which NGOs are happy to go along with it and which would refuse to participate.

If an independent investigation of the kind I am suggesting were to reveal that 20% of allegations of child sex abuse  in Cambodia were false, would this be of concern to LICADHO? What about 30%? Is there a percentage at which LICADHO would respond with, “This is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.” If so, I am sure that such a sentiment would be shared by the 10%, 20%, 30% (or whatever the percentage might be) of men who are in jail in Cambodia for long periods of time for crimes they did not commit.

As it stands at present, there is no way to determine, independently, whether Mr Johnson is lying or Mr Seila. The impossibility of knowing leaves men accused of sex crimes open to being convicted for crimes they did not commit and to men being found not guilty for crimes they did commit.

The testimonies of the children, given to trained professions with no vested interest in the outcome is, I believe, the place to start.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

# 75 Naly Pilorge responds to questions regarding Mr Fletcher's case in a most revealing way.

Dr Kek Pung
President, LICADHO
Phnom Penh

23rd Dec 2014

Dear Dr Pung

In response to my letter to you of yesterday I received the following in my INBOX today. As you have been copied in the email interchange below you can vouch for the authenticity of it.

Dear Mr Ricketson

I can confirm what you write in your letter to Dr Kek Pung about Naly Pilorge thinking she has more information about Mr Fletvher’s case than you or the courts. This is the email I sent to Dr Pung three days ago:

On 12/21/2014 6:54 PM, .... wrote:
Dear Dr. Kek Pung,
cc: Director Naly Pilorge,

my name is xxxxx. I live in Cambodia since 2003 and believe that i
contributed to the wellbeeing of the Khmer Citizens as much as i can.

I have met Mrs. Naly Pilorge before she left Sihanoukville and found that she was a great defender of Human Rights, particulary concerning
those of the Khmer People. I recently learned from other expats that you are aware of the David Fletcher Case who is imprisoned at PJ Jail in Phnom Penh on charges that cannot be true. The details are well known to you as i can read in one of the most engaged blogs on this subject> run by australian Mr. James Ricketson. I learned from the blog that you do not respond to any of his enquiries or emails.

My question is WHY ?

It seems obvious that David Fletcher is a victim of miscarried Justice
in Cambodia. He therefore is as much a person that should get all
support of a human rights organisation like yours. The same is true for
Mr. Matt Harland another Barang in Jail without any fair trial.

I would very much appreciate if you would answer to my email because
otherwise your non-reaction will make me wonder what kind of Human
Rights Organisation you are if you do not protect the human rights of
Barang also.

Best regards

Naly Pilorge wrote back to me with these words:
On Sun, Dec 21, 2014, at 04:52 PM, LICADHO Director (Naly Pilorge) wrote:


Thanks for your email. We are following the case, our findings differ from James Ricketson but we cannot reveal the details of the case to protect the parties involved, thanks.


Naly Pilorge
Save trees - please do not print this email unless necessary

I wrote back to Naly Pilorge with these words:

dear naly,

thank you for your prompt answer. I don't know in what way your findings differ from those of James Ricketson but it is apparent that Mr. David Fletcher was denied basic rights when i simply follow the news in the Media and the proceedings (or non action) of the court. So my question remains, where do you Licado stand on Human Rights when it concerns other than Khmer.  By answering this question you do not reveal any detail of the David Fletcher case. In denying any statement that would give me a clearer picture of where you stand. Currently you appear to simply protect the interest of and it's highly controversial methods which are illegal in most countries around the world. And the remaining question still is : WHY ??

Naly Pilorge did not reply to my email.

Naly’s response to this anonymous correspondent (copied to yourself) raises a whole host of questions that I do not have time to deal with on Christmas Eve. I will mention just a few:

Why has Naly chosen to respond to questions put to her by this anonymous correspondent and to none of the questions I have put to her - regarding her being a founding member of APLE, for instance?

Given that I am in possession of copies of all the Phnom Penh Municipal Court documents relating to Mr Fletcher’s case and in not one of them is there any evidence that he raped Yang Dany, how can Naly be in possession of information that neither I nor the Phnom Penh Municipal Court are aware of?

As for my ‘findings’, for Naly’s ‘findings’, it is not for either Naly nor myself to pass judgment on Mr Fletcher; to decide on his guilt or innocence. This is the task of a properly constituted court. However, that said, the intact nature of Yang Dany’s hymen, plus her admission that she was not raped should be sufficient for LICADHO to make a very public call for Mr Fletcher to be provided with a fair trial. Instead, it seems that Naly’s ‘findings’, in her view,  make such a trial unnecessary. Naly, as investigator, prosecutor and judge has found Mr Fletcher guilty but she cannot share the evidence upon which she bases her ‘findings’ with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with myself or with anyone else involved in this case.

Is Naly in possession of copies of all the court documents relating to this case?

Naly’s ‘findings’ are irrelevant. My ‘findings’ are irrelevant. It is for a court to decide, on the basis of Naly’s ‘findings’ (evidence), my own ‘findings’ (evidence) and the ‘findings’ of others involved in investigation into Mr Fletcher’s activities in 2009 and 2010 whether he is innocent or guilty of the crime of rape. That there are problems with the Cambodian judicial system I am sure we can agree on. However, LICADHO should not be setting itself up as prosecutor, judge and jury of men such as Mr Fletcher and thus usurping the role of the Cambodian courts.

Again I ask, why will LICADHO not make a public statement to the effect that Mr Fletcher is entitled to a fair trial?

best wishes

James Ricketson