Foreigners deny Cambodia charges

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PHNOM PENH, 31 January 2018: Ten foreigners detained in Cambodian jail after their arrests last week admit they were dancing provocatively at a drunken party but deny police accusations they made porn, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The group — five Britons, two Canadians, a Norwegian, a New Zealander and a Dutch national — were arrested on Thursday during a party at a private villa in Siem Reap, the gateway to the famed temple ruins of Angkor Wat.

The defendants, aged between 19 and 31, are still in detention after they were charged by a Siem Reap court on Sunday with producing pornographic pictures and materials, which carries a maximum one-year sentence.

But their appointed lawyer Soung Sophea told AFP his clients rejected the allegations.

Soung Sophea said they admitted wearing “sexy” clothes and singing and dancing as well as drinking during a pool party called “Let’s Get Wet”.

But their activities “did not fall under the charges”, he told AFP.

“They did not produce pornographic images or show their genitals.”

The group is “frustrated because they are not guilty but in jail,” the lawyer said, adding that he would meet them tomorrow to discuss seeking bail.

Cambodia’s national police said on its website over the weekend that the 10 foreigners were accused of “singing and dancing pornographically”.

Police also released photos that show pairs simulating various sexual positions at a party, but the origin of the images is unclear and many in them do not appear in the line-up also posted by authorities.

Seventy-seven partygoers were initially rounded up during the crackdown but were released with a warning.

Samrith Sokhon, a prosecutor at the court in Siem Reap, said the group produced “pornographic images” and circulated them online to attract tourists to the event.

He said their activities were against “our tradition” and noted Siem Reap’s proximity to Angkor Wat, which in addition to being Cambodia’s most popular tourist site is also considered sacred.

Cambodia banned skimpy clothing inside the temple complex in 2016 and has previously arrested foreigners for taking racy photos among the ruins.

But deportation not prison time is the norm.

The location of past offences have also been inside the ancient city, not in the adjoining town of Siem Reap, a popular hub for tourists and foreigners that is known for late-night carousing on its “pub street.”

Britain’s foreign office said it was aware of the case and is providing support to the families.

On Monday Dutch travel organisations called on tourists to “respect religions and temples” when travelling in foreign countries, popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf reported.

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© Agence France-Presse