The deputy principal of a Phnom Penh international school was provisionally charged on Thursday with sexual abuse after he was arrested last week for allegedly abusing a 5-year-old student, a court spokesman said.
Mark Andrew Smith, 39, a U.K. national, was charged with indecent assault with aggravating circumstances, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said in a message.
Mr. Smith was arrested on Friday as he left Golden Bridge International School of Phnom Penh, two days after a Cambodian Facebook user, known as Viriya MC, livestreamed a video describing how Mr. Smith allegedly abused the student at his home. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 10 million riel, or about $2,500.
Sem Malis, Mr. Smith’s girlfriend, on Thursday repeated earlier claims that her boyfriend, a father of two, was innocent and questioned whether the court had enough evidence to charge him. She said police had told her they had found nothing to support his guilt on the school’s surveillance cameras.
“He did not do it. Why hold him accountable?” Ms. Malis, 30, asked. “It is unfair.”
The head and deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, where Mr. Smith was detained and questioned since his arrest, could not be reached.
In a statement posted to the school’s Facebook page on Tuesday, Golden Bridge said it was aware of the allegations of sexual abuse against a “foreign teacher” and was cooperating with authorities. An administrator at Golden Bridge could not immediately be reached on Thursday.
Another court spokesman, Sous Vichearandy, said Mr. Smith would be questioned by an investigating judge today.
soumy@cambodiadaily.com
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