American gets 21 years for child sexual abuse on underaged Cambodian girls

  • AseanPlus News
  • Monday, 22 Jun 2020

PHNOM PENH (Phnom Penh Post/ANN): A former American teacher in Cambodia was sentenced to 21 years in prison by the US federal court for engaging and attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct with two underage Cambodian girls while travelling and residing here from 2013 to 2018, the US justice department said in a press release.

Micky Rife, 36, formerly of Salyersville, Kentucky, was tried before US District Judge Gregory F Van Tatenhove after his arrest by the US Marshals Service in January last year.

Rife admitted during the trial that between Sept 3, 2012, and Dec 9, 2018, he travelled in foreign commerce, and between March 7, 2013, and Dec 9, 2018, he resided in Cambodia.

During those periods, he touched two minor females under their clothing and inside or on their genitalia on more than one occasion. He further confessed that both victims were under the age of 12 when the illicit conduct occurred.

US-based Salyersville Independent newspaper reported in January that in Sept 2012, Rife travelled to Phnom Penh and was employed as a teacher at the Hi-Bridge International School of Phnom Penh until Dec 5, 2018.

He returned to the US on Dec 9 that year.

In 2013, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Phnom Penh – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arm at the US embassy in Cambodia received information on Rife and his alleged unusual behaviour towards students.

On Feb 20, 2018, Rife’s ex-girlfriend also contacted the US embassy, tipping them that Rife had allegedly sexually assaulted a Cambodian female student who was around five years old.

The woman told the embassy she had been in a long-term relationship with Rife and both had adopted a Cambodian female child, who was approximately two years old.

She voiced concerns to the embassy, saying Rife was sexually abusing their adopted child and that he may leave Cambodia with the child.

The Salyersville Independent also reported a former vice-principal at the Hi-Bridge school had informed the US Foreign Service National Investigator that she knew of two children who had allegedly been molested by Rife – one in 2013 and another in 2015.

The vice-principal said in 2013 she gave Rife a written warning to address his “misconduct and inappropriate behaviour towards children at the school”.

The HSI interviewed the two girls’ mother, who reported that in the spring of 2015 one of her daughters, at the time around four years old, told her she was having pain while urinating.

After medical treatment, the girl told her mother that Rife had molested her during break time, touching her under her underwear and that Rife “would inappropriately touch girls at the school and not boys.”

Kem Vando, a specialist at the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (Aple), recalled to The Post on Sunday that between 2012 and 2013, Aple also received reports from Hi-Bridge school teachers about Rife’s suspected behaviour.

“Because of his suspicious conduct, we also worked in collaboration with the National Police to gather more information. I applaud the prosecution of a child abuser, especially if there are further penalties such as a ban on him from Cambodia,” he said.

So far this year, three foreign tourists – Swiss, American and British nationals – have been arrested by Cambodian authorities for allegedly sexually abusing children in Kandal and Siem Reap provinces and Phnom Penh, Vando said.

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Chou Bun Eng, who is also the permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking, said she was not familiar with the case.

She said generally, foreigners caught committing sexual abuse against children in the Kingdom are prosecuted here, unless in special cases where requests are made to prosecute them in their home countries. - The Phnom Penh Post/Asian News Network
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