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American pedophile suspect released

American pedophile suspect released

The Minister of Women's Affairs Mu Sochua has expressed concern about the secret

release of American pedophile suspect James Curtis Parks from Prey Sar prison on

April 25.

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court source told the Post on May 23 that charges of rape

and indecent assault against Parks had been dismissed for lack of evidence. Parks,

who consistently described himself as the innocent victim of a police extortion conspiracy,

has since relocated to Bali. He declined to comment when reached by email.

"As far as releasing such people, I think it is really dangerous and counterproductive,"

Sochua said of Parks' release. "I worry about what he [Parks] is going to be

doing in Bali. We have to protect children all over the world, not just Cambodia,

because these people will continue to abuse children wherever they go."

Parks, 58, was arrested Dec. 13, 2000 in a Phnom Penh hotel room with an allegedly

underage Vietnamese sex worker. Parks insisted that he was only seeking to assist

the girl in finding accommodation and getting an education and that his arrest was

engineered by corrupt police who robbed him of thousands of dollars in cash and photography

equipment and demanded money for his release.

That account of events has been corroborated by the manager of Phnom Penh's Puncak

Hotel where Parks was arrested.

"I did my best to help him [Parks] because I think he had been set up by unscrupulous

authorities... These people have a stereotype in their mind that all foreigners have

a fat bank account," said Puncak Hotel Manager Abdul Razak Mahmud, who says

he believes Parks was innocently entangled in a web of corruption involving the police,

the courts and the girl's "mama-san" (female pimp).

According to Mahmud, Parks had sought the assistance of several hotel employees to

help find an apartment for the girl prior to his arrest. Upon learning of Parks'

plans, the girl's mama-san demanded that Parks pay her $1000 to free the girl from

prostitution.

"The mama-san bought this girl from the provinces, so she wanted some compensation

for giving her up," Mahmud said of the circumstances behind Parks' arrest. "It

[was] just like the trading of a commodity for her."

Information technology consultant at the NGO Forum on Cambodia, Bill Herod, also

expressed concerns about the handling of Parks' case, particularly his allegations

that police had blindfolded him, held a gun to his head, choked him and confiscated

personal items of value.

"It is possible the authorities had reason to suspect Mr. Parks of illegal activity,

but suspicion should be the basis for investigation, not the brutal and humiliating

treatment to which Mr. Parks claims he was subjected," Herod told the Post by

email. "I believe he was released because the government had no case and because

it was clear that he would not be able to come up with the thousands of dollars in

bribes being sought from him.

In a March interview with the Post at Prey Sar Prison, Parks confirmed that his lawyers

and police officials had repeatedly linked his release to the payment of bribes.

A major inconsistency of the case was the age of the alleged victim. Initial reports

said she was 14, but later reports indicated she was 15. The court source told the

Post on May 23 that the girl is 17.

Another controversy in the case is the role that the girl's status as a prostitute

played in exonerating Parks. The court source said that the dismissal of charges

against Parks was partially based on the fact that a witness identified the girl

as a prostitute and the girl admitted to being a prostitute.

Child protection workers have documented dozens of cases in recent years of foreigners

charged with child sex crimes successfully eluding prosecution by buying their way

out of custody.

Sochua expressed concern that Parks was just the latest in a string of foreign child

sex suspects to take advantage of Cambodia's endemic official corruption by bribing

his way out of custody.

"Justice is for all and not only for those who can pay, whether foreigners or

local people," said Sochua, who is seeking to establish an immigration "blacklist"

of foreign child sex suspects.

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