JOHN KEELER, the 55-year-old former headmaster of Phnom Penh's London School of English
sentenced on November 20 to three years in prison for debauchery, has gone on a hunger
strike to protest against what he alleges is a conspiracy of corrupt court officials
and his former business partners to keep him behind bars.
Keeler's conviction followed his arrest on August 26 for making a pornographic video
of four girls aged between eight and 10 years old in a park in Takmau.
In an exclusive interview with the Post on November 21 from his cell at Kandal Prison
in Takmau, a visibly distressed Keeler said the conviction had sapped him of his
will to live.
"I'm not going to eat until I die," he said on the first afternoon of a
hunger strike. "I don't think I can face another three days here, let alone
three months or three years."
By the Post deadline on November 23, Keeler was continuing to refuse food, prompting
concerns among prison personnel of the possible implications of a foreigner dying
"I'm afraid that [Keeler] will die in prison if he continues his hunger strike...
He'll be dead in seven days if he continues," said Kandal Prison Director Muong
Sam Arth pleaded for intervention by British Embassy officials to end Keeler's hunger
Keeler alleges the $5,400 bribe money he paid to have charges against him dismissed
was instead used to ensure he stays behind bars.
According to Keeler, his court defense was sabotaged by threats made against his
lawyer, Chhoy Phally, before his trial on November 21.
"After the trial [Phally] told me pressure was put on her to throw the case...
She said '...my life is worth more than [even] $10,000'."
In a telephone interview on November 22, Phally refused to comment on Keeler's assertions
that her trial performance had been influenced by threats, saying only "Dead
men don't return."
Keeler blames intimidation of his lawyer and the alleged diversion of the bribe funds
designed to buy his release on his business partners at the London School of English,
of which Keeler owns a 25 percent share.
A spokesperson for the London School of English dismissed Keeler's allegations as
While Keeler expressed contrition about his actions in Takmau on August 26, he continued
to insist he had done nothing wrong and that the circumstances that led him to film
four young girls lifting their dresses and fondling themselves was "spontaneous".
"I filmed girls expressing themselves... I didn't ask or order them, they just
sat down in front of me and started doing it," he said. "The camera
seemed to make them behave that way... They were not frightened, they were very happy
and smiling when they were with me."
Contacted by phone on November 23, Ian Felton, Deputy Head of Mission at the British
Embassy, told the Post the Embassy was unaware of Keeler's hunger strike.