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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cambodia inaugurates Intelligence Department at Interior Ministry

Cambodia has officially established an Intelligence Department under the Central Security Department of the National Police General Commissioner's Office at the Interior Ministry, local media said on Saturday.

The department will collect information from abroad for purpose of national security, said newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

The effort will include appointing operation officials attached to Cambodian embassies or other organizations overseas to perform intelligence services, it said.

It will also propose security measures to the Interior Ministry and cooperate with foreign intelligence institutions to exchange information and prevent international terrorism, it added.

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U.S. warfare ship to visit Cambodia soon

The USS Essex, one of the largest class of amphibious warfare ships in the United States fleet, will dock in Sihanoukville in late November with 1,000 U.S. marines on board, local media said on Saturday.

"They will help with health programs and engineering projects -repairing schools and bridges," Jeff Daigle, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy was quoted by newspaper the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

The USS Essex, 844 feet long, is based in Japan and will stay in Cambodia from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2.

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Cambodia to build rail link to Thailand

Cambodia will build a rail link to Thailand after it received $US80 million ($A87.9 million) in funds from the Asian Development Bank and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Cambodia's transport minister says.

Work on the 48-kilometre connection between Sisophan in Cambodia and Poipet near the Thai border will start early next year and be completed by 2010, said Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.

The funding will also cover improvements to other parts of the Cambodian railway system, he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of transport ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nation, or ASEAN.

The link between Cambodia and Thailand is part of plans for a 5,500km railway linking Singapore to Kunming, which was first proposed by ASEAN in 1995.

The project, which envisages connecting domestic rail networks to form a continuous link from Singapore to Kunming in China, is aimed at easing travel between various Southeast Asian countries and China.

Besides the connection to Thailand, Cambodia will also have to build 257km of tracks linking its capital Phnom Penn to Loc Ninh in Vietnam.

Sun Chanthol said the Vietnam rail link will cost around $US500 million ($A549 million) and his country was seeking funding for the project.

ASEAN, which groups Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, on Friday also signed a maritime agreement with China.

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Southeast Asia remains magnet for sexual predators

Bangkok — A police warrant issued for a Canadian accused of sexually abusing children comes hard on the heels of arrests of other alleged sex offenders, highlighting concerns that Southeast Asia is a magnet for sexual predators.

Despite strengthened laws and lobbying efforts by child protection groups, child pornography and child sexual abuse continue to flourish in the region.

Several Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, are popular with pedophiles due to lax law enforcement, corruption in the justice system and the easy availability of young boys and girls who are forced into prostitution by poverty.

Police in the Thai beach resort town of Pattaya issued an arrest warrant for Canadian Orville Frank Mader, 54, after an eight-year-old Thai boy said he had been lured to his room and then sexually abused. Police say they believe Mr. Mader abused at least three other boys.

Mr. Mader was arrested by police in Cambodia in 2004 on charges of sexually abusing two boys, ages 11 and 14, but the case apparently did not go to court. Cambodian officials said at the time that he used to teach English in Japan. His current occupation is unknown.

Mr. Mader was initially identified as from Kitchener, Ont., but it's believed he has not lived in the city for decades. Relatives have said they believe he has lived in Vancouver.

The issue of Western pedophiles was freshly spotlighted earlier, with the Oct. 19 arrest of Christopher Paul Neil of Maple Ridge, B.C., on charges of having sex with several young Asian boys. Thai police captured Mr. Neil after Interpol initiated an unprecedented worldwide appeal to identify and apprehend him.

Interpol began its manhunt after finding about 200 pictures on the Internet of Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese boys being sexually abused by a man whose face was digitally obscured.

After German police computer experts unscrambled the photos so the man's face was recognizable, Interpol circulated them publicly. Tip-offs led them to name Mr. Neil as a suspect. He has been charged with child sexual abuse, and remains in police custody.

The charges against Mr. Neil have not been proven in court.

On Wednesday, police said they may begin making background checks on foreign teachers in Thailand, who have been implicated in several cases.

“It shouldn't be enough to wear white shirts and have a university degree. We need to know their background,” said police Col. Apichart Suribunya, head of Thailand's liaison office for Interpol, the international police agency.

Mr. Neil has also worked as a teacher in Asia, as has Paul Cornelius Jones, 39, a Briton who was arrested Tuesday after police raided his Bangkok apartment and found a computer containing photos of naked boys and girls.

Thai police acted on a tip from their British counterparts, who alleged Mr. Jones had been sending photos of naked children to Britain over the Internet, said Col. Apichart. The British government's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said he was a registered sex offender in his homeland.

Mr. Jones has been charged with distributing pornographic photographs of children under age 15, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, police said.

“This is not a new problem,” Montri Sinthawichai, a child rights advocate for Thailand's Foundation of Children's Protection, said Thursday. ”These few high-profile cases involved Western men. We have a lot of cases that involve Thai teachers, too.

In another recent case, a 74-year-old British man was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. Hundreds of photos and pornographic videos of naked boys and men were found when Alan Charles Mawson, of Barrow-in-Furness, was arrested on Oct. 23 in his apartment in Pattaya, said police Capt. Sorakit Thanyasri.

Mr. Mawson was charged with sexual abuse of a child under 15. He denied the charge, Capt. Sorakit said.

Thailand and Cambodia figured in another case announced Wednesday by French police.

They said they arrested 20 people in October as part of a European-wide crackdown on people who shared child pornography over the Internet, and three of those rounded up were suspected of having abused children during trips abroad.

Three of the French suspects were believed to have appeared in child pornography shot abroad, principally in Cambodia, said police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

A former French doctor who moved to Thailand after being thrown out of France's order of doctors was a suspect, police said. He was taken into custody when he returned to France recently, police said.

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