Police, NGO Search for Pedophile in Siem Reap

A task force made up of police and investigators from a child protection organization Thursday began searching in Siem Reap province for wanted Dutch pedophile Pieter Ceulen, according to a member of the team.

Mr. Ceulen, a wealthy 60-year-old businessman, was sentenced in absentia to 19 years in prison in Belgium on January 21 for sexually abusing children and creating and distributing pornographic images and videos of children, including Cambodian girls he adopted while living in Siem Reap.

However, he was not legally required to be present during the trial and was not barred from travel, allowing him to flee Belgium before police there attempted to arrest him.

Those close to the case, including Belgian journalists and child protection organizations in Belgium and Cambodia, suspect that Mr. Ceulen is now in Cambodia.

James McCabe, director of operations at the Child Protection Unit—the investigations wing of the Cambodian Children’s Fund—said investigators from his organization were part of a task force that included national and provincial anti-human trafficking and judicial police.

“The task force was established on March 2 and activated on the third,” he said, adding that the team had conducted searches at Mr. Ceulen’s “substantial assets” early Thursday morning. Mr. Ceulen is known to have homes and businesses in the province.

The process of formally seeking his arrest had taken almost seven weeks due to a number of factors, including Cambodian authorities not receiving the necessary documents from Belgian police until February 25, Mr. McCabe said.

“The formalization of anything of international significance will take some time,” he said. “Everything’s on paper, it’s not emails.”

Police at the national level have repeatedly denied knowledge of details about the case, and provincial police said as recently as Wednesday that an arrest warrant still had not been issued for Mr. Ceulen.

Mr. McCabe said officials connected to the case in Cambodia may have been out of the loop regarding warrants.

“Not everyone would know about it,” he said, explaining that those directly involved in the investigation have been gathering intelligence for the past two weeks.

Asked whether all levels of police would be informed now that the task force had been made public, Mr. McCabe said that it was “quite commonly known that this individual is wanted in Siem Reap.”

However, apparent confusion among Cambodian officials continued Thursday. Provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Duong Thavary said on Tuesday that police were “90 percent sure” that Mr. Ceulen was in Siem Reap but were waiting for warrants from National Police before they could act. On Thursday, she maintained that she did not know anything about an arrest or search warrant being issued.

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