Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - School boss arrested in sting




School boss arrested in sting

Long Ven (centre), founder of the Underprivileged Children School
Long Ven (centre), founder of the Underprivileged Children School, is placed in a car after authorities took him into custody yesterday in Siem Reap. GEORGE NICKELS

School boss arrested in sting

The founder of an informal English-language school who police allege allowed pedophiles access to children under his care was arrested in Siem Reap yesterday in an operation involving four different government agencies and an NGO.

Long Ven, 33, who goes by the name Waha, founded the Underprivileged Children School in Knapau commune’s Sambat village in 2008. The school offers English classes to about 60 children from the surrounding area.

The head of Phnom Penh’s Child Protection Unit (CPU), former Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer James McCabe, said the investigation began about five months ago after a former foreign volunteer at the school made a complaint that children were being made available to pedophiles.

The CPU is a joint venture between the Cambodian Children’s Fund and the National Police.

McCabe said that Ven, a former monk, had also illegally solicited donations for the school, which was not registered with any provincial or national authorities, while falsely telling donors that it was an orphanage.

He said the suspect was still being questioned by police last night but faced potential charges of “illegally running an NGO, fraud and trafficking children”. McCabe added that the local police were also liaising with foreign authorities regarding the case.

“We believe at least two boys have been sexually assaulted by foreign male volunteers at the school,” he said.

Working undercover yesterday, McCabe and another Westerner assisting police who requested anonymity met Ven at the Siem Reap FCC cafe. The suspect was then arrested by plainclothes police.

Ven smiled as he was led away, until he was put into an unmarked SUV.

About 16 students were interviewed by child protection officers at the Sambat Village school, a wooden building with a concrete floor, English-teaching posters on the walls and a small concrete library. Four other teenage boys were also interviewed after being picked up from an apartment rented by Ven in Siem Reap.

Investigators and representatives from the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, Siem Reap Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, the Siem Reap prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation were involved in the sting.

Brigadier General Sok Reaksmey, the deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said each agency had a role to play.

He cited as an example the need for child protection officers to care for and offer counselling to any victims discovered during the operation.

“Working alone in isolation from other stakeholders, it can be difficult to succeed in our operations,” he said.

Phet Khan, 47, whose two girls aged 6 and 15 years both attended the school, said she never had any worries about sending them there.

“I never thought there was anything to be concerned about,” Khan said. “[Waha] seems to be a good person.”

A 74-year-old man who identified himself only as Long said his daughter taught at the school and he had never heard of any problems there.

However, he said Waha had helped arrange marriages between local women, including widows and foreigners.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15