Child Porn Arrest Sparks School Probe

Alleged Pedophile Admits to Making Video of Children

Authorities say they will start an investigation into activities at the London School of English following the discovery Wednesday of child pornography on a computer confiscated from the school’s British director, who was arrested Saturday for allegedly coercing girls into sexually explicit poses then videotaping them.

Indecent photographs of young Asian children in school uniforms and cartoon graphics depicting children in sado-masochistic scenarios were found on the computer of school director John Keeler, 55, Kandal Court Chief Prosecu­tor Chheng Phath said. At least one picture of a child that was not originally sexual in nature had been manipulated into a pornographic image.

There were two pictures on the computer of students at the school, though they were not sexually explicit.

Chheng Phath said authorities will be interviewing young students at Keeler’s school on Street 208 in the Daun Penh district. “We will talk to the children and find out if there is more to this case,” he said.

“The families looked for the best school to send their children,” Chheng Phath said. “But they may not have known what it was like inside the school or what he was like.”

Keeler was arrested Saturday by Military Police in Takhamu town, Kandal province, after they were tipped off that a man was recording young children in indecent poses.

The four girls later told police and court officials Keeler injected them with a substance before encouraging them to remove their clothes in the public park. The girls parents told police Keeler frequented the park, giving children candy and money.

Charged under Article 8 of Cambodia’s law on human trafficking and prostitution, Keeler could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted

Interviewed Wednesday at Kandal Provincial prison where he has been held since Saturday, Keeler said he is not a pedophile and denied using drugs or any other form of coercion to make the four girls, aged 8 years and 10 years, perform the highly sexual acts.

He also denied claims made by the girls Monday that he groped them.

“It’s true I was videoing four girls who were exposing themselves,” Keeler said. “But, regarding injecting the girls, it is a total nonsense. It’s a fabrication. If you look at the circumstances [it is] extremely unlikely. No kind of injections or anything like that was found.”

Allegations that he drugged the four girls were either invented by police or by the girls who were later embarrassed by their unprovoked actions, Keeler maintained.

“I don’t know whether this came from the police or from the girls by way of an excuse for their behavior. And what kind of drug was it [that made] them behave the way they behaved? It’s total nonsense. A Cambodian fiction,” Keeler said.

Keeler, who has been a resident in Cambodian for around 10 months, would not explain why he recorded the graphic footage of the girls.

“There are lots of things people want to know but it doesn’t mean that I have to sit here and tell them,” Keeler said.

An array of prescription medicines including the “date-rape” drug Rohypnol, Viagra and unused syringes were among items taken from Keeler’s residence—which doubles as the English school—by Kandal court officials.

Keeler said conditions at Kandal prison—where he could spend the next six months during the pre-trial investigation—are deplorable. “It’s filthy, noisy, dirty….It’s an appalling prospect,” he said.

The widening investigation into Keeler’s activities was also prompted by the discovery literature downloaded from an pedophile Web site and a series of emails that may link the British national to a network of pedophiles operating in Cambodia.

In one email discovered on Keeler’s computer an individual in Switzerland states that he is looking for “people which know the special business in sex life [in Cambodia].” The Swiss man goes on to note in the email message that specific words should not be used in their correspondence.

“Never write special [words] exact,” the email states.

Because of the international dimension to the case, officials at the higher-ranking prosecutors will be contacted on how to proceed with the investigation, Chheng Phath said.

Children’s protection organizations have increasingly criticized the court system and the government for not properly prosecuting foreign pedophiles arrested in Cambodia.

While many foreigners accused of sex crimes against children have paid bribes to court officials to have charges dropped, others have been simply deported from Cambodia through their embassies, said Chanthol Oung, director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center.

In the past several years, diplomatic pressure has led to the release from prison and deportation of dozens of foreigners accused of sexually exploiting children in Cambodia, Chanthol Oung said.

British Ambassador George Edgar said he is aware of such criticism but noted that it is not the embassy’s job to lobby the Cambodian government for the release of a prisoner. The embassy’s role, he said, is to ensure that Keeler is treated fairly and according to the law.

An international law enforcement expert said Wednesday that Kandal court investigators will need expert help to investigate the charges against Keeler. Given the seriousness of the incident and evidence which may point to a pedophile network, the court could request Scotland Yard send British police to investigate the case, he said.

Keeler’s claim the girls consented to being recorded on video shows he aware that the Cambodia court system is weak in such cases, the expert said.

“He knows the Cambodian judicial system is weak and he will build his case on the grounds there is no evidence he forced the girls…and with a good lawyer he could escape.”

 

 

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