Officials who oversaw the arrest of convicted Dutch pedophile Pieter Ceulen in Phnom Penh last week said on Sunday that they were still deciding whether to deport him to face prison in Belgium, or prosecute him in Cambodia.
The head of an NGO police unit that led a search for Mr. Ceulen last week, however, said the wealthy businessman and one-time resident of Siem Reap City would be deported “in the next 72 hours.”
Mr. Ceulen, 60, who for years split his time between Cambodia and Belgium, was convicted in absentia in January at a court in Antwerp and sentenced to 19 years in prison for sexually abusing children—including newborn babies and his adopted Cambodian daughters—and producing child pornography.
In the wake of reports that he had returned to Siem Reap, a special task force was established earlier this month to search for him there. The force was made up of anti-human trafficking police, judicial police and investigators from the Child Protection Unit, a branch of the Cambodian Children’s Fund.
Reached on Sunday, the unit’s chief of operations, James McCabe, said Mr. Ceulen’s deportation to Belgium was only a matter of time.
“He is still being processed, pending a formal handover to Belgian authorities,” he said. “It is safe to say that it will happen in the next 72 hours.”
Officials from the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department were more circumspect.
“Please wait until Monday, and it will be clear then, because expert officials are now finalizing the procedure,” said Na Neang, deputy director of the department, explaining that discussions had so far revolved around whether Mr. Ceulen would be sent back to Belgium, or prosecuted in Cambodia.
Department director Pol Phiethey confirmed that deportation was on the table, but said that discussing the matter in detail would be irresponsible. Faced with the prospect of long-term imprisonment, he said, Mr. Ceulen might try to commit suicide.
“If we let him know [through the media], and there is any problem, I will say it is because of The Cambodia Daily publishing information carelessly, making the offender scared and causing him to commit suicide,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)