Phnom Penh, on July 4, an American lawyer, who spent over two years in a Cambodian prison for sexually abusing four underage children, was deported back to the United States. Now facing federal charges, 42-year-old Rugh Cline is currently held under house arrest. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 170 years in prison for his alleged crimes, including paying to engage in sexual conduct with minors in Cambodia in 2019.
According to the US Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida, the indictment accuses Cline of engaging in sexual conduct with four minors on multiple occasions while in Cambodia, and of knowingly possessing child sexual abuse materials while traveling from Florida to Cambodia. Cline was previously ordered by a Cambodian court to pay 15 million riels (approximately $3,750) in compensation to each of the victims, who were all under the age of 15 at the time.
Efforts are underway to combat the issue of child sexual exploitation in Cambodia, including initiatives led government and child protection organizations like Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE). Seila Samleang, APLE’s Executive Director, welcomes Cline’s deportation from Cambodia to face justice in the US. He emphasizes the need for stronger laws to fight this crime and deter child sex offenders from exploiting vulnerable children.