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Court questions three suspects over child sex ring allegations

TWO Cambodians charged with selling prostitution in the operation of a child sex ring, and a 59-year-old American charged with buying child sex and producing child pornography were sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for questioning, law enforcement officials said.

The suspects were identified as Mey Sovann, a 36-year-old taxi driver, guesthouse owner Sek Vy, 47, and 59-year-old American Carl Craig Thomas.

Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said the trio were serving pretrial detention in Prey Sar prison.

“We brought them in for further questioning, and we requested a detention warrant from the court to keep them in prison,” he said.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said the arrests were the result of a six-month investigation conducted in cooperation with the French Police’s International Technical Cooperation Delegation (SCTIP).

According to the investigation, Bith Kimhong said, Mey Sovann had been operating a child sex ring on the Internet since 2003, advertising underage virgin girls available for US$3,000 a night. He would allegedly pick up customers from the airport before taking the men to Sek Vy’s guesthouse to meet the children.

Bith Kimhong said officials arrested Thomas, who arrived in Cambodia on January 14, in Daun Penh district’s Psar Thmey III commune, where they also seized a large stash of child pornography.

Samleang Seila, country director of the child rights group Action Pour Les Enfants, was not involved in the investigation, though he said the increasing use of the Internet to sell sex presents a new challenge in the fight against paedophilia.

“This is happening as a consequence of the increasing number of arrests of foreign paedophiles so far – people begin to think it is not safe now to expose themselves outside as looking for child sex, so they instead go underground,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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