Thailand's capture Friday of a suspected pedophile from Canada is highlighting efforts in the Southeast Asia region to combat child sex tourism. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.
Thirty-two-year old Christopher Paul Neil of Canada was taken to Thailand's Royal National Police headquarters in Bangkok Friday after his capture in the north of the country.
Neil's arrest came after the international police agency, Interpol, issued an unusual appeal over the Internet to law enforcement agencies and ordinary people around the world. The appeal was to help identify and catch a man shown in Internet photos, allegedly performing lewd acts with at least 12 young boys in Cambodia and Vietnam.
The photos showed the man's face distorted by a digital swirl pattern, but authorities in Germany were able to unscramble the pictures and reveal Neil's face. A manhunt ensued when Thai authorities discovered he had entered the country last week after leaving South Korea, where he had worked as a teacher. He had previously taught children in Thailand.
The manhunt for Neil and his arrest highlights growing worldwide efforts to combat so-called sex tourism, a problem that is rampant in Southeast Asia. Richard Bridle, UNICEF's deputy regional director for Southeast Asia, tells VOA the number of pedophile arrests and prosecutions is rising, thanks to growing cooperation between the rich western nations that export child molesters and the poorer countries that host them.
"There are two parts to the equation: the kids who are the victims seem to be Southeast Asians - at least that's what the news stories tell us - and a lot of the perpetrators are coming from Europe and North America, and so on," said Bridle. "I think we've begun to realize that it just isn't right that crimes like this should be committed against children, and this says very, very bad about our own society."
Bridle says technology and improving communication have helped in the battle against an age-old crime, which is prevalent not only in Asia, but in Africa and Latin America as well.
"If you go back in history, you'll find a lot of instances of sexual abuse of children in Europe and North America, for instance. But I think this is one of the positive sides of globalization," he said. "We're beginning to see a common ethic that is developing around the world, and we're beginning to see that wherever you are, there should be absolute zero tolerance of crimes against children, and we've got all these instances of good cooperation."
Some nations, including Australia, Britain and Canada, have passed laws with extra-territoriality clauses - meaning those who travel and abuse children in other countries can be prosecuted and jailed at home.