Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Thailand, Cambodia on alert in Interpol paedophile hunt

Christopher Paul Neil, a suspected Canadian paedophile, talks with Thai police at the Crime Supression Division in Bangkok in October 2007. Thai police said Wednesday they were on high alert for another Western man accused of molesting Asian boys, triggering a global hunt, but said that tracking him down would be difficult.(AFP/File/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

An interpol officer's computer, May 5 at the Lyon-based agency, eastern France, shows images of a man who is thought to have abused three boys aged between 6 and 10. Interpol posted six images on its website to launch a global appeal to identify this man, suspected of sexually abusing several asian boys and distributing hundreds of photos of the acts.(AFP/Fred Dufour)

Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France. Thai and Cambodian police were on high alert Wednesday after Interpol launched a global manhunt for an unidentified man accused of molesting Asian boys, but warned tracking him down would be tough.(AFP/File/Fred Dufour)

by Anusak Konglang

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai and Cambodian police were on high alert Wednesday after Interpol launched a global manhunt for an unidentified man accused of molesting Asian boys, but warned tracking him down would be tough.

Interpol has posted images on its website of a white man accused of distributing hundreds of photos of his abuse of Southeast Asian boys committed in 2000 and 2001.

It is the second time in seven months the international police agency has made such a public appeal, following a search for another suspected paedophile, Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old Canadian who was arrested in Thailand in October.

"We have alerted our agencies by distributing his picture to the immigration department and the police central investigation bureau," said Colonel Apichat Suriboonya, head of Thailand's branch of Interpol.

"As of now we have no information about whether the suspect is in Thailand or not. It is not like the Christopher case where we knew his name and flight number," he said.

In Cambodia, the head of the national Interpol office Keo Vanthan said local police were also on high alert, although officials had no indication if the suspect was in the kingdom.

"If he is here, he will be arrested," Keo Vanthan said. "We don't know the name of the guy or which country he is in."

Interpol official Yves Rolland told AFP that the photos discovered on the Internet were "typical of paedophiles frequenting sexual tourism hotspots in South Asia, especially Thailand and Cambodia."

Both countries have tried to crack down on paedophiles, and Thailand has been praised for its cooperation in tracking down Neil last year.

Neil, a teacher, was seized in northeast Thailand on October 19 following the worldwide Interpol campaign to track down a man seen in 200 Internet photos abusing Asian boys.

The suspect's face had been digitally swirled in the pictures, but German computer experts were able to reconstruct the images, which Interpol then posted on its website along with its public appeal.

Neil was identified after Interpol received responses from around the world that helped authorities track him down.

Without tips from the public in the latest case, Apichart said tracking down the suspect would prove difficult.

Last year Thailand began taking digital photos of all the passengers arriving at the nation's airports.

But Apichart said Thailand did not have the technology to match a suspects' face to those images.

Given that Thailand receives some 15 million visitors a year, it would be very hard to locate the unnamed Interpol suspect, he said.

"This time the request is quite difficult but we have to try," he said.

"I think they (Interpol) have investigated this case for some time but when it hit a dead end they tried this strategy as a last chance."

Interpol's Rolland said the pictures of the abuse showed a white man aged between 50 and 70.

The affair came to light in March 2006 after the discovery of hundreds of paedophile images in the computer of a Norwegian man who was later convicted on paedophilia-related charges.

The three boys featured in some 800 shots, of which 100 showed the man Interpol is seeking to identify.

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