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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child traders elude Eurocops

Child traders elude Eurocops

Child traders elude Eurocops

LOOSE police procedures are allowing Cambodian children to be smuggled into Europe,

according to a foreign police official.

Months before Cao Leng Huot was intercepted by Italian police in Nov on suspicion

of child-trafficking, "at least 60 children" were smuggled-out of Cambodia

to Europe, said an official whose agency is investigating child trading rings.

From Oct 1995 to May 1996, as many as 30 children were smuggled-out by a Cambodian

couple who made approximately ten trips to Europe, according to various sources.

The two are still at-large after slipping past police who were alerted to their arrival

on the continent in May.

Police say the man held a legitimate European passport and his Cambodian partner

a doctored Cambodian passport.

"We know that the woman has been involved as an escort smuggling humans as well

as children to Europe and America into the sex-trade," said Cambodian Interpol

police general Skadavy M Ly Roun.

According to the foreign police official, the couple regularly accompanied to Europe

at least two children aged between eight and 13 years - the prime age for children

to be sold into the paedophile industry.

"In May I was informed that the couple had already left Cambodia, and were on

their way to Europe with two children... I immediately sent a telex to headquarters

alerting them about their arrival."

"When they landed in Europe, airport police checked their passports, then waved

them on. HQ later informed me that the woman's papers were in order and that the

children were hers."

"I am still not convinced by what HQ told me and believe that the couple were

exporting children to Europe to supply paedophilia networks there," he added.

In a second case, six Cambodian couples shuttling between Europe and Cambodia from

Nov 1995 to Feb 1996 on doctored Belgian passports, smuggled an unspecified number

of children using an international airline.

At least 36 air-tickets were sold with between one and two children accompanying

their "parents" on each excursion.

According to another police source, a high number of Cambodians were booking flights

to Europe on Belgian passports at that time.

Photocopies of 12 Belgian passports were made and sent to the airline's security

services for verification, the source said .

In February, when all these passports proved to be fakes, the photocopies were passed

to foreign police for further examination.

Days later, one of the six couples booked four more seats on another intercontinental

flight for themselves and two children.

At short notice and with minimal explanation, the airline was instructed by police

to sell the tickets and allow the passengers to board the flight, the source said.

"The police explained that it was important to their investigation that these

people's patterns of travel not be broken, so that these suspects could be observed

and nabbed at the other end."

The foreign police official, however, later claimed the case was merely illegal immigration,

and that no children were involved.

Within a week of that departure from Pochentong airport, a second "couple"

booked seats on another flight to Europe, but this time the airline was instructed

by foreign police to prevent them from boarding the flight.

The pair dropped out of sight after they were told that flights on the airline were

fully booked. The other suspected child traffickers almost immediately stopped booking

seats on the airline's flights to Europe, sources confirmed.

"The second couple probably sensed that a sting was being set-up and alerted

the others," conceded the police official.

In all cases, police say the children are still unaccounted for and as far as they

know, apart from Huot in Rome, no other traffickers working out of Cambodia have

been arrested.

If the export of Cambodian children is to be stopped the system on the other side

has to foolproof, the foreign police official said.

"With the communications technology at our disposal, exchange of information

between police agencies should be much faster than it is," he added. "And

with the extensive resources and manpower available to us in Europe, these cases

should be treated more conscientiously.

"Given the scale and seriousness of the problem, we have to ensure that absolutely

nothing can go wrong on the European end, because if we lose sight of the suspects

and the children, we have a serious situation on our hands," he said.

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