Phnom Penh, Cambodia – In response to the article posted in the Cambodia Daily on 7 March 2015, APLE would like to clarify some critical points.
H.V. was hired at APLE in 2003 due to his experience working in child rights and protection. At this time, he had a clean criminal record and seemed ideally suited for the role. During his tenure, H.V. was also running an orphanage. In 2004, he left APLE amicably to focus fully on his work in the orphanage. There were no suspicions at this time that he had ever abused a child.
Thierry Darnaudet did not make the initial complaint of sexual abuse against H.V., nor did he pressure anyone to do so. Two French individuals reported their suspicions to Friends International, First Step Cambodia, and MoSVY. Friends International later reported the case to MoSVY as well and requested for an investigation. In July 2014, MoSVY requested APLE’s assistance in corroborating the claims.
APLE then started a preliminary investigation to gather more information and determine possible abuse. Some days later, APLE identified an adolescent who had previously lived in the orphanage; the adolescent stated that H.V. had sexually abused him during that time. APLE immediately reported this to the AHTJPD. At the request of the AHTJPD, APLE continued its investigation and two more adolescents, who had also previously lived in the orphanage, were identified; they stated H.V. had sexually abused them. The three identified adolescents also indicated that more children in the orphanage were being abused by H.V. At this point, APLE reported the case to AHTJPD again. As APLE is an NGO, our capacities were then focused on the welfare of the children inside the orphanage. To this end, APLE supported both action by the AHTJPD to investigate and MoSVY to remove the children from a potentially harmful environment.
Between August 2014 and February 2015, the AHTJPD carried out an investigation and obtained further evidence in this case. The AHTJPD, assisted by APLE, re-interviewed the three aforementioned adolescents and interviewed four witnesses in the case. In addition, the AHTJPD and a DoSVY official conducted interviews with fourteen children, who were living at the orphanage. APLE was not present during these fourteen interviews and had no contact with any of these children in the past. Based on the four witness accounts and statements of sexual abuse made by the three adolescents and seven of the fourteen children, H.V. was arrested by the AHTJPD on 2nd March 2015.
In the wake of this, APLE continued to advocate for the closure of the orphanage and transfer of the children to safe places. MoSVY assessed the orphanage and decided to close it five days later. The children were either reunited with their families or placed in temporary care centers for assessment and counseling. We fully support this action and are grateful to the organisations that have offered to support these children. APLE is liaising with these partners to ensure suitable care and counseling.
Should the children choose to pursue legal action against H.V., APLE has offered legal counseling and representation to all victims; accepting this assistance is optional. APLE knows there is no conflict of interest in this case; however, we are aware and understanding that others may feel differently. As a result, APLE has contacted another child protection NGO to partner in the provision of legal representation, if the victims ask us to do so.
H.V. was charged with Indecent Assault with Aggravating Circumstances. These charges are based on the AHTJPD’s police file. H.V. has accused Thierry Darnaudet of fabricating these claims out of revenge and APLE of acting on this; however, Thierry Darnaudet has no role or influence in APLE or its investigations. APLE is an independently run, local NGO, which takes allegations of child sexual abuse extremely seriously and would never participate in, encourage, or support a case it knew to be untrue.
We invite qualified parties to contact us if they would like to independently review our involvement in this case. APLE is committed to transparency and honesty; we conduct investigations to the best of our ability and remain ever-focused on protecting children.