ABRITON who headed a children’s charity in Phnom Penh has been arrested in Thailand for immigration offences, according to an anti-human trafficking organisation.
The arrest comes less than two weeks after a British tabloid published a story that David Fletcher, 65, was a paedophile who used his charity to gain access to young girls.
Steve Morrish, executive director of the Phnom Penh-based Southeast Asia Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities, or SISHA, said Wednesday that Thai authorities arrested Fletcher on Sunday at a guesthouse in Bangkok.
Morrish said Fletcher is being held because he failed to notify Thai immigration authorities of his previous criminal convictions in the UK.
Officials from SISHA and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) of the British Police alerted Thai authorities to Fletcher’s presence after receiving information concerning his whereabouts from sources who were tracking his movements, Morrish said.
“We’ve been investigating him for about 18 months,” he said. “We located him in Bangkok, after sources told us he’d fled there when news came out last week about him.”
A SISHA press release stated that Fletcher entered Thailand on June 25 – five days after British tabloid The Sunday Mirror published a story claiming to expose him as a paedophile who used his unregistered charity, the Rubbish Dump Project, to befriend underage girls at Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey dumpsite.
Morrish said Fletcher is currently being held at a Thai immigration detention centre.
For two years, Fletcher has been under investigation by CEOP, as well as Cambodian authorities, SISHA and local child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants “for alleged sexual abuse of children in Cambodia”, according to the SISHA press release.
Morrish noted that there have been no charges filed against Fletcher by Cambodian authorities. They are “all just allegations now,” he said. He added that if Fletcher has committed wrongdoing, he “needs to face up to what he’s done here”.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they were not aware of the case.
Fletcher was convicted in July 1997 on charges including having sex with a girl under the age of 16, indecent assault, taking an indecent photograph of a child and possessing a prohibited weapon, according to Norwich Crown Court in England.
In an interview last week after The Sunday Mirror article was published, Fletcher accused the media of exploiting his past.
“I made a mistake of having an affair with a girl a few months under age,” Fletcher wrote in an email. “The gutter press then as now took it out of context for greater circulation.”
Fletcher said he had “paid his dues” for his mistakes and denied committing any crimes in Cambodia. “As for using the dump to get access to girls, absolutely not,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY