Vigai Indra Komar has been jailed in Cambodia. (Photo: Phnom Penh Post)
A Canadian man appeared in a court Monday facing child prostitution charges in Cambodia and was remanded into custody to a provincial jail, the Star has confirmed.
Vigai Indra Komar, who had his Canadian passport issued in Vancouver, could spend up to six months in jail awaiting a trial, Seila Samleang, country director of a child protection advocacy group known as Action Pour Les Enfants told the Star in a phone interview.
Seila said his group had a lawyer representing the victim in the provincial court of the northwest province of Siem Riap.
He said the passport information indicated Komar, who listed his place of birth as the Indonesian island of Savu, would be 70 years old in July.
Police raided Komar’s hotel room on Friday and allegedly found him with a 14-year-old girl "cowering naked in the bathroom," according to a report in the Phnom Penh Post.
Seila said on Monday he contacted Canadian police with whom he has worked in the past with on child sex tourism cases.
“After the charges (were) confirmed, we brought the case to the Canadian RCMP for their information and we hope that they will be working on it carefully,” Seila said.
Seila, whose group works closely with police to help victims of sex tourism, said he has dealt with “several cases from Canada” and that while some progress has been made in fighting the crime, “it is very prevalent here.”
“We don’t have a strong criminal justice system here, so children are still adrift,” he said.
In a recent series on child sex tourism, the Star reported that since 1998, more than 200 Canadians have been convicted abroad of sexual crimes against children and asked for help from their government, according to figures released by Public Safety Canada.
But here at home, under a 1997 law which makes it possible to prosecute Canadians for crimes committed outside our borders, there have been only five known convictions for child sex tourism.
The Phnom Penh newspaper said Komar was arrested by police at the Hilton Angkor resort in Siem Reap, a popular tourist destination near the famous Angkor temple ruins.
“This wealthy, elderly retiree left Canada to come to Cambodia to buy child prostitutes,” provincial chief prosecutor Ti Sovanthal told another national newspaper, the Cambodia Daily. “Now he is jail.”
Chea Heng, deputy chief of the anti-human trafficking and children protection office for Siem Reap province, said the police found the girl in the bathroom, "along with what they described as pornographic materials and erectile enhancement pills."
None of the charges or the circumstances of the case have been tested in court.
The latest Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012 by the U.S. State Department says that the government of Cambodia “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” but is making “significant efforts” to do so.
It says there were convictions of 62 sex trafficking offenders during the year -- an increase from 20 offenders convicted during the previous reporting period.
In an interview with the Star, Phnom Penh Post editor in chief Alan Parkhouse said his reporters frequently report on cases of Western tourists arrested on child sex charges while local police and NGOs continue to work hard to combat the crime.
"They are definitely trying, but they are under-funded and under-resourced," Parkhouse said.