Police in Siem Reap province on Monday arrested a man and his sister on suspicion of running a prostitution racket serving foreign tourists using teenage students attending their English language school.
Veha Long, 32, was arrested at his evening school in Sotr Nikum district, the Underprivileged Children School, from which he would allegedly draw students to have sex with tourists who disguised their payments as donations to the association backing the school, said Duong Thavary, provincial anti-human trafficking police chief.
She said police also arrested Mr. Long’s sister, whose name she could not recall, and detained nine students aged 17 to 19 who were staying at Mr. Long’s rental home in Siem Reap City and whom he may have been pimping.
“We have not yet questioned them this afternoon, but we have sent him and his sister, along with the nine witnesses, to the provincial police headquarters,” she said. “We have investigated and found that the suspect was providing two teenagers each time to have sex with foreigners who sponsored his association…. We believe the suspect was sex trafficking.”
She said police had been investigating the case for more than a month and tracked Mr. Long’s movements.
Ms. Thavary said she did not yet know how long Mr. Long had been running the operation and how many victims there may be.
She said that after questioning, the nine teenagers found at the rental house would be sent to the provincial social affairs department, which would arrange for them to be returned to their homes.
Sotr Nikum district deputy police chief Heng Samnang said the school had 89 students between the ages of 12 and 20. He said he had joined the police operation Monday but declined to comment on the prostitution allegations.
Provincial social affairs department director Thea Sophat, who also joined the operation, said the school had been operating for six to seven years without proper paperwork. He said the tip-off came from a Danish woman who had volunteered at the school and complained to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which contacted the Ministry of Social Affairs, which in turn informed the Ministry of Interior.
“We have found that the school owner dealt in child trafficking because he provided teenagers for sex to foreigners,” he said.
Cases of sex offenders working at or running dubious charities and orphanages are not new. Just last month, American missionary Daniel Johnson was sentenced to a year in jail for molesting five boys at his unregistered orphanage.
However, Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said this was the first time he had heard of a school pimping its students out to foreigners, and said authorities should do a better job of regulating them.
“This is a new case, of child trafficking at a school,” he said. “I appeal to authorities, especially the Ministry of Education, to check before letting a school open with free teaching.”
According to the website for the Underprivileged Children School, which prominently solicits online donations and features a photo gallery of young children studying and playing, the school’s co-directors are “Long Waha” and “Robert Iwu.”
In a profile on the site, Long Waha writes, “I was born in the country side of Cambodia. I grew up in a poor family and after 6 years spent in a Buddhist Monastery, I took teacher classes in Siem Reap. Now I’m able to help children and teach them English and morality.”