CAMBODIA – Child protection workers in Cambodia say a Montreal man locked himself in his hotel room and tried to commit suicide by slicing open his belly and slashing his wrists when police moved in to arrest him on child-sex allegations.
The dramatic confrontation came after child protection workers interviewed six boys, the youngest age 10, about suspected sexual abuse in Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, the world heritage site of the world’s largest religious monument.
Workers with Action Pour Les Enfants, a child protection group in Cambodia, were tipped to a suspicious tourist by a non-governmental organization. APLE workers spoke with two boys who both confirmed sex abuse, said Yi Moden, APLE’s deputy director of field operations. “Agency workers then went to identify the suspect”.
When he was located, APLE workers saw him taking four other boys into the forest, where he disappeared from view. Police were called but by the time officers arrived, the suspect had left the area, said Mr. Moden.
The boys, ages 10, 12, 13 and 14, were taken to a police station where they were questioned; three of them told officers of sex abuse, he said.
After hearing the testimony of the boys, a local prosecutor ordered the arrest of the Montreal man.
“When he became aware of the police and what was happening, he locked himself into the guest house room and tried to commit suicide,” Mr. Moden said.
The suspect used a knife to cut his stomach and slash his wrists, he said. The injuries were significant, at first considered life threatening.
Police wrestled a pocket knife away from the naked suspect before taking him to hospital.
“The police rescued him and he is now in hospital. The doctors are making sure he is in good condition before he is charged,” he said.
He rented a low rate room and stayed there alone. Child advocates spoke to children in the area who said the man was seen hanging around about eight days prior to his arrest.
The original tip came to APLE on Feb. 20 and the arrest came on Sunday. A police investigation is working to identify other potential victims. Police believe there are “many” young victims, said Mr. Moden.
The Montreal man is to be charged with sexual intercourse with minors under age of 15. He is believed to have travelled to Cambodia alone but it is not known when he departed Canada.
Poverty and lax enforcement made Cambodia a destination for child sex tourists. Even when caught, foreign pedophiles were often able to pay a small amount to a victim’s family — or a bribe to officials — to escape charges, but, in recent years, Cambodia has made ending child sexual exploitation a priority.
As part of the crackdown, the Cambodian government has called on hotel employees and non-governmental agencies to report suspicious activity.