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Cambodia Arrests Suspected Pedophiles from US, France


Cambodian police have arrested an American and a French national on suspicion of molesting children. One organization that helped police catch the suspects worries that, despite increasing arrests, foreign pedophiles are still making Cambodia one of their prime destinations.

Cambodian authorities say the 64-year-old Frenchman was arrested after taking two Cambodian girls, aged 10 and 13, into his guesthouse room.

He was charged with "indecent acts" and could face up to three years in prison.

Separately, an American man charged with purchasing sex from two underage boys in northern Cambodia could be jailed for up to 15 years.

Samleang Seila is the Cambodia director for Action for Children, a French organization helping police to identify suspected pedophiles.

"That American man was under surveillance by our organization for more than one year," said Seila. "We heard that that American was coming to Cambodia for almost two years and he was moving from place to place in Cambodia to engage in sexual relations with separate boys."

Seila says, since 2003, his organization has helped rescue 185 sexually abused children in Cambodia, 80 percent of them young boys.

He credits international cooperation with agencies like the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation for helping track down traveling sex offenders.

U.S. Embassy spokesman John Johnson confirmed to VOA the FBI did help with recent arrests.

"At the Cambodian government's request, the FBI is involved in a number of cases in the country, including the pedophile case, not just in the north but in several cities," said Johnson.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and has gained the unfortunate reputation of attracting child molesters looking to exploit children living in poverty.

Seila says he worries that, despite increasing cooperation and arrests, the number of pedophiles traveling to Cambodia may actually be on the rise.

"If you look at the number in 2008, there were about 15 arrests of foreign pedophiles in Cambodia. And, up to date this year, January to today, there are six pedophiles arrested in Cambodia already for abusing children," said Seila. "So, my anticipation is that there is still a concerning, increasing number of foreign sex offenders traveling to Cambodia to engage in sexual exploitation of children."

He says, in the past, Cambodian authorities lacked the resources, skills and political will to tackle the problem.

But he says, in the last few years, police have received better training, are taking child molesting seriously and hoping to improve Cambodia's image.

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