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Friday, November 02, 2007

Cambodian Police Arrest German on Child Sex Abuse Charge

By Sopheng Cheang/AP Writer/Phnom Penh

Police caught a German man in bed with a 14-year-old girl in the Cambodian capital and arrested him on debauchery charges, two of the arresting officers said Friday.

Police raided the suspect's Phnom Penh hotel room Thursday and discovered him with the teenage girl, said Keo Thea, deputy chief of Cambodia's anti-human-trafficking police.

Keo Thea declined to give any details, but one of the arresting officers, who asked not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the 61-year-old man came from Cologne in Germany.

Keo Thea said the suspect would face formal charges in a court, but he did not say when or define the charges.

The other officer said the suspect was arrested for debauchery—a legal term for the sexual abuse of children under the age of 16—a charge that is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

He said police officers burst into the German's hotel room and found him—dressed only in his underwear—lying asleep on the bed with the fully clothed girl.

The girl later told police that she and the man had sex several times before the raid. It was not immediately clear if she also faced any charges.

A French child rights group had been watching the suspect for some time. Action Pour Les Enfants investigators saw the man hanging around with two teenage girls, including the one whom he was with during the arrest, said Samleang Seila, the group's director in Cambodia.

The detention of the German is the latest in a string of arrests of Westerners suspected of child sex offenses in Cambodia.

In March, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced two German men to a total of 40 years in prison for sexually abusing ethnic Vietnamese girls aged 10 to 14 years.

Then in April, the same court charged Walter Muze, a 62-year-old German from Stuttgart, with debauchery for having sex with a 13-year-old Cambodian girl. Last month, a Russian businessman was arrested in Cambodia on charges of having sex with at least six girls.
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DETAILS: Cambodia

GETTING THERE: The quickest way to Siem Reap is the 22-hour fight from Dulles on Korean Air (connecting via Seoul); the round-trip fare is about $1,500, with restrictions. An alternate route is to fly to the capital of Phnom Penh (various airlines, from about $2,250), spend a day or two exploring the city, then catch a short domestic flight (about $80 one way) to Siem Reap on Phnom Penh Airways.

Or to see a bit of the countryside, hire a taxi for the four-hour drive from Phnom Penh; the road is good, the views are interesting and the price (about $70) is hard to beat. There are also daily flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap (about $195 each way) on Bangkok Airways.

Cambodia requires visas, which can be obtained on arrival or online at http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh ($25).

WHEN TO GO: Most tourists visit during the peak season of November to February, when skies are clear; avoid the brutally hot and dusty months of March and April. Start planning now if you want to visit in the rainy season (May-October), which is an excellent option to consider, especially if you don't plan to visit remote parts of the country.

WHERE TO STAY: All the hotels serving Angkor are in Siem Reap, just a few miles from the temples. It's easy to get a clean, comfortable room in a friendly guesthouse for less than $25 -- try the Villa Siem Reap (153 Taphul Rd., 011-855-63-761-036, http://www.thevillasiemreap.com) -- but luxury rooms are so cheap in the rainy season that it's hard not to splurge.

At the very top end is the Amansara (Road to Angkor, 011-855-63-760-333, http://www.amansara.com), where many of the private suites have their own pools. It's an architectural tour de force, and has the Amanresorts' trademark sophistication and attention to detail, but at $850 and up per night (no discount for off-season), you'd expect nothing less.

Five-stars geared toward mere mortals include the historic Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor (Vithei Charles de Gaulle, 800-768-9009, http://www.siemreap.raffles.com; about $200 per night double in the off-season) and the Sofitel Royal Angkor (Vithei Charles de Gaulle, 011-855-63-964-600, http://www.sofitel.com; about $130), set in a vast tropical garden.

But the best deals in town may be the airy, Asian-styled La Residence d'Angkor (River Road, 011-855-63-963-390, http://www.residencedangkor.com; about $150), and the jazzy Hotel de la Paix (Sivutha Blvd., 011-855-63-966-000, http://www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com; about $190); the former is more subdued than the latter, but neither will disappoint. The hip-and-we-know-it Foreign Correspondents Club (Pokambor Avenue; 011-855-23-992-284, http://www.fcccambodia.com/angkor) has contemporary-style rooms at about $120 per night but is well below the others in terms of comfort and privacy.

Note: Prices at most hotels will be at least twice as high in the dry season.

WHERE TO EAT: Khmer cuisine, which is similar to Thai but not as spicy, is coming back to life after decades of neglect. The best place to try it may be Meric, in the Hotel de la Paix, where chef Joannes Riviere is leading the revival. Try his theatrical seven-course Khmer sampler, served on pieces of slate, antique serving spoons, artfully broken pots -- everything except plates. At $30, it's pricey by Cambodian standards, but it was one of the most memorable meals we've ever had.

Dozens of great restaurants and open-air bistros are in the French Quarter; start at the main thoroughfare, nicknamed Pub Street, and explore the surrounding streets. Good bets include Khmer House (traditional Cambodian dishes for less than $5, in the alley behind Pub Street), kamasutra for Indian food and the charming Le Tigre du Papier (on Pub Street), with its free book exchange, (slow) Internet access, cooking classes in the upstairs kitchen and a grill offering everything from alligator to kangaroo ($4-$12).

If you're in the mood for "2001"-style futurism, head around the corner from Pub Street to the Blue Pumpkin, where you can lounge on bulbous white furniture and cool off with snacks and organic teas ($2-$12). And definitely try the Dead Fish Tower on Sivutha Boulevard, which has delicious Khmer and Chinese food ($2-$8), an eclectic art collection and six alligators in a tank.

WHAT TO DO: Well, temples, obviously. But skip the trip out to the "floating village" at the huge lake called Tonle Sap; it's cheesy, touristy and depressing. There are several museums; one of the most unusual is the Land Mine Museum ( http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org; $1), on the road to the temple of Bantey Srei.

It's impossible to get out of Siem Reap without seeing some traditional Apsara dancing. This is exotic and beautiful stuff, as is the Khmer music that accompanies it. Many of the hotels host dinnertime performances, so call around to see what's available. And if you have a chance to see a traditional shadow puppet show, grab it.

For shopping, most people head to the tourist-oriented Artisans d'Angkor (Stung Thmey Street) or the huge Old Market in the heart of the French Quarter. Unless you're really into vegetables or cheap Cambodian underwear, though, skip the market and head into the warren of nameless streets and alleys that surround it. You'll find an amazing range of boutiques and art galleries; some of the best include Kokoon for silks and Hagar Design for hip, fashionable stuff made of recycled rice bags. Siem Reap has started to attract a small international artist community, and there are sophisticated, affordable works at the McDermott Gallery (on the passageway behind Pub Street) and hand-tinted photographs at the Klick Gallery next door.

And when you're worn out from climbing temples all day, check into one of Siem Reap's ubiquitous spas. There are dozens of them, from Seeing Hands, whose masseurs are all blind (about $10), to our favorite, Bodia (in the French Quarter), where the organically Space Age architecture will unwind you even before the massage (about $26) begins.
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