The deputy principal of an international school in Phnom Penh has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old student at the school, according to police.
Mark Andrew Smith, 39, a U.K. national and father of two, was arrested on Friday by police as he was leaving the school to return to his home, according to his girlfriend, Sem Malis, 30.
Before Mr. Smith was arrested, a Cambodian woman, known as Viriya MC on Facebook, live streamed a video on Facebook on Wednesday evening describing the abuse. In the video, Ms. Viriya, who lists herself on Facebook as an executive producer at MEDIAOne Kh and a counselor at Radio Sarika FM, claims she had met the parents of the girl.
Ms. Viriya says the girl was sexually abused by her foreign teacher, who took the girl to his home to abuse her. She claims the abuse was confirmed by a doctor, and says that the parents had met the school’s director, but did not name the school involved. Two days later, Mr. Smith was arrested.
Commune police chief Horm Kea and Keo Thea, chief of the Phnom Penh police’s anti-human trafficking bureau, both confirmed his arrest and said Mr. Smith was sent to the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department. They declined to elaborate on the details of the case and referred questions to the anti-human trafficking department.
Pol Phithey, director of the department of anti-human trafficking, his deputy Chiv Phally and Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Smith’s girlfriend, however, claimed on Sunday that her boyfriend was innocent.
“He told me that someone accused him of taking a girl home to sexually abuse her,” she said, adding that he had called after his arrest. “He denied. He did not do it.”
Ms. Malis, who is currently living in Siem Reap province, said they had been dating for nearly nine years and had two children together. Mr. Smith had been teaching at a school in Siem Reap before taking a job as a deputy principal at the school in Phnom Penh.
The president of the international school could not be contacted on Sunday and all numbers listed on the school’s website went unanswered. Bill Longhurst, the British ambassador to Cambodia, declined to comment on issues regarding individual citizens. Ms. Viriya could not be reached for comment.
In a separate case, the vice principal of an elementary school was arrested in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district on Thursday for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl in the school’s office, said Svay Dara, a commune police chief in the district. The alleged incident happened on Wednesday, and the girls’ parents filed a complaint on Thursday, Mr. Dara said.
(Additional reporting by Chhorn Phearun)
soumy@cambodiadaily.com
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