Police Say Foreign Sex Offender Should Not Head Up NGO
The Interior Ministry said yesterday that the government could prevent a convicted foreign sex offender from operating his self-styled children’s aid organization in Phnom Penh after a British tabloid newspaper reported that it was being run by the former convict.
The Daily Mirror reported on Sunday that 65-year-old David Fletcher, director of the Rubbish Dump Project, which provided food to children at the Stung Meanchey dump, was convicted in England on charges of statutory rape in 1997.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, the Interior Ministry’s spokesman, said that the government would not allow a convicted child sex offender to run a charitable organization in Cambodia that works with children.
“If he is a [sex] offender, we do not allow,” Mr Sopheak said, noting that he was not specifically aware of Fletcher’s case.
Fletcher admitted yesterday to having spent seven months in a British jail for having sex with a 15-year-old girl, though he denied many of the details contained in the Mirror newspaper article.
“The girl in England was nearly 16 and going on 23,” Fletcher claimed yesterday by telephone. “You don’t get seven months for kiddy fiddling. You get seven years but I had tapes of her saying how much she loved me and that she wanted to run away with me to the US,” he said.
Fletcher went on to dismiss a 1997 article in his local newspaper in England, The Saffron Walden Weekly News, which claimed that he had plied the 15-year-old with alcohol and money, as ridiculous, saying that it is not unusual for young women to want to date more attentive older men.
Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said yesterday that he planned to investigate Fletcher’s activities in Cambodia and would contact the British Embassy in Phnom Penh for assistance.
Officials at the British Embassy could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Mirror also alleged in their article on Sunday that Fletcher planned to pay a $200 bride-price in order to marry a 17-year-old girl from the now closed Stung Meanchey dumpsite, a claim Fletcher strongly denied yesterday.
“They confused the story,” Fletcher said by telephone.
“I am marrying a young lady from the dump who is 24 and pregnant with someone else’s child,” he said.
Fletcher also defended his past actions and present plans, saying that both the 15-year-old in England and his Cambodian fiancee were “very mature.”
Scott Neeson, executive director of the Cambodian Children’s Fund, which also works with children scavengers at the municipal dumpsite, said yesterday that he was aware of Fletcher’s activities and the accusations made against him in the Mirror.
Mr Neeson added that he had also met with the mother of the 17-year-old girl from the dumpsite mentioned in the Mirror’s article and said that he believed the allegations that Fletcher was seeking to pay money to marry the young girl, whom he claimed was a teenager.
Despite escorting tourists to visit the dump with food and other assistance for the children and families living there, Fletcher is still regarded with suspicion by area residents, Mr Neeson claimed.
Seila Samleang, country director of the anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour les Enfants, said yesterday that he felt Fletcher’s behavior was worrying.
“We feel concerned when there is any association between Mr Fletcher and a child,” Mr Seila said.
It was not known yesterday if the Rubbish Dump Project is a humanitarian organization registered with the Cambodian government.