Children’s NGO Sovann Komar yesterday claimed it had uncovered compelling evidence that sacked co-founder and former executive director Arun Sothea was complicit in sexual abuse of children, and treated them cruelly, including by starving them.
Mr Sothea was terminated from his position as Executive Director of the NGO Sovann Komar LLC on 23 August, along with four members of top management and other staffers, including guards.
They were dismissed for allegedly committing financial fraud, misusing organisational funds, corruption, breach of trust, physical abuse, perpetuating an abusive environment, compromising the safety and well-being of children, negligence, dereliction of duties, nepotism and coercion.
In a press statement issued yesterday, Sovann Komar said that during his time with the NGO, Mr Sothea physically assaulted and gravely endangered children.
“In an extraordinary act of punishment, one of the children was starved for more than one week before Mr Sothea, who condoned the abuse and action of starvation, granted permission to concerned wardens at the village to provide the child with food,” the press statement said.
It alleged that Mr Sothea’s apparent girlfriend and staff members of the village had psychologically tortured a child, while he was held in an office at the premises for several days, by scaring him with ghost stories and malicious tricks.
The child fled the office and was left to wander outside with no appropriate shelter.
“This child had uncovered instances of Mr Sothea misusing funds and having a number of inappropriate sexual relationships with staff members in the village,” the statement said. “Mr Sothea then orchestrated a plan to show that the child suffers from a psychiatric disorder.”
The NGO said that it had also uncovered a case where two children were scalded with hot water, locked in a wardrobe and beaten by wardens at one of the 10 hostels in the village.
It added that a teenage girl was also sexually assaulted by a village staff member but Mr Sothea refused to take action.
“This evidence emerged during a review of operations at the children’s village commissioned by Golden Children Inc, the American charitable organisation that controls Sovann Komar LLC,” the statement noted.
It also said the top management of Sovann Komar LLC’s children’s village are also under investigation for creating and condoning a hostile environment where children were physically and sexually abused.
Men Makara, spokesman for Sovann Komar, yesterday said the NGO is preparing to take legal action against Mr Sothea.
“Our legal representation is proceeding to file a criminal complaint,” she said. “We have uncovered evidence that children under his care were physically and sexually abused, including being beaten, starved and detained.”
She noted that the NGO is still investigating the cases.
Mr Sothea yesterday denied the allegations against him and said he was innocent.
“They say I starved or detained children but it is not true,” he said. “I have never used violence on children.”
“How could I commit these offences when the children have wardens to look after them?” Mr Sothea added. “If they think they have enough evidence, they have the right to file a lawsuit but I will also file a complaint.”
“I am not worried because I did nothing to those children,” he added.