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15 Years Reduced in Pedophile Appeal

The Appeals Court on Wednesday reduced the sentence of a Belgian man convicted of indecent acts with a minor by 15 years Tuesday, based on the enactment of a new anti-trafficking law.

Phillip Dassat, 46, was arrested in April 2006 and convicted of indecent acts with a 14-year-old boy at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Dassat to 18 years in prison under a previous statute.

Appeals Court Judge Um Sarith upheld the guilty verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, but he said Article 43 of the "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" called for a sentence of only three years.

Dassat was also fined 6 million riel, or $15,000. The three-year sentence and fine are the maximum allowed under the new law.

Nou Chantha, lawyer for the accused, said Tuesday he was "satisfied" with the reduction of the sentence.

Samleang Seila, country director for the anti-trafficking group Action Pour Les Enfants, said the new law did not signal a strong intention to stop acts of pedophilia.

Imprisonments for sexual acts are "short," he said, calling for further amendments to the law.

The new law, which was enacted in trafficking, calls for five to 10 years in prison for sexual acts with minors and up to 3 years for indecent acts.

Under the old law, indecent acts could lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years, Samleang Seila said.

The number of pedophile cases against underage boys was lower in 2008 compared to 2006 and 2007, Keo Thia, deputy chief of the anti-trafficking and juvenile protection unit of the Phnom Penh police, said Tuesday.

"The criminals seem to be afraid of our police, who have cracked down on many pedophile cases," he said.

Police have made three arrests of suspected foreign pedophiles since January, he added.