Groups of garment workers poured out of factories in Phnom Penh and around the country Wednesday to demand a “living” monthly minimum wage of $177 for the industry, joined by supporters picketing outside embassies and brand shops in Australia and Europe.
Cambodian authorities are investigating claims that Belgian national Rudy Demasure, who has recently become one of the targets of a push against suspected foreign sex offenders, fabricated medical credentials, allowing him to pose as a doctor working with Cambodian school children.
Neau Sarik, principle at the Koy Tep school in Kandal province, said recently that Demasure was part of a group of five medical officials working under the Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Program to conduct medical checkups on school students late last year.
But Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua confirmed this week that a letter has been received from the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok stating that Demasure, contrary to his claims, is not a qualified doctor.
“I will ask the Ministry of Justice to investigate if there is a law against falsification of credentials,” Mu Sochua said following the opening Monday of a new counter-trafficking bureau at the Women’s Affairs Ministry.
“We will try to do all we can to make sure [Demasure] will be prosecuted for this,” Mu Sochua.
An official at the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok said earlier this year that checks were being conducted in Belgium to establish if Demasure was a medical doctor.
According to the official, a file on Demasure at the embassy showed no record of him being a medical practitioner.
“As far as I can find out…there is no trace of him being a doctor,” the official said.
But Gloria Christian, a qualified nurse and assistant secretary-general of Demasure’s CRDP, said earlier this year that Demasure’s medical credentials were indisputable and the Belgian was part of the Koy Tep school medical team that conducted basic medical examinations on the 1000-plus student population.
The organization has to date assisted the Koy Tep school with around $20,000 worth of assistance provided by the Belgian government, Christian confirmed.
The organization run by Demasure has repainted classrooms and repaired doors, windows and tables at the school, Neau Sarik said.
Belgian medical doctor Piet De May, also a member of the CRDP, has refused to comment on the claims against Demasure, calling reporting on the case a witch hunt.
The anticipated investigation comes at a time when the government is proposing the creation of a blacklist for suspected foreign sex offenders, including Demasure, who Mu Sochua warned will be prevented from acquiring visas to enter or stay in Cambodia.
Demasure was specifically targeted in a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from Mu Sochua, who said the recent dropping of a child rape charge against the Belgian was a classic case of impunity by foreign sex offenders in Cambodia.
Charges that Demasure raped his 14-year-old Vietnamese house maid were dropped June 22 by Municipal Court Investigating Judge Mong Mony Chakriya, who said the victim and her parents had retracted their accusations. The decision was later appealed but has yet to be heard in court.
The rape charge was the second dropped against Demasure, who was questioned by police in 1999 for allegedly raping another maid, but released after paying the family, according to Ream Sarim, deputy chief of Municipal Minor Crime Police.
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