BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police, who ended a global manhunt with the arrest of a Canadian paedophile suspect last week, are looking for dozens more foreign suspects, mostly Germans, who may be hiding in the country, a senior officer said.
Police regularly sift through the red light districts of Bangkok, the notorious beach town of Pattaya and the island of Phuket for Westerners police in their home countries had issued warnings about, said Major-General Wimol Powintara, head of the child crime police.
“These are men, young and old, who love to have sex with little boys,” Wimol told Reuters as he flipped through a folder of photographs of 50 white males supplied by the German police about a year ago along with their names and dates of birth.
“I have no objection if they have sex with anyone aged over 18, but don’t do it on our little children who are the future of our country,” Wimol said in an interview at his office where 200 officers deal with crimes against children and women nationwide.
Wimol said these paedophiles were quite discreet when looking for children, hiring adult males or transvestites as go-betweens to lure children to their rooms by promising free computer games and easy money.
The most difficult part of putting suspects behind bars was to convince abused children to testify against the suspected paedophiles, Wimol said.
“Without the cooperation of the children, police can’t prosecute these paedophiles,” Wimol said.
A case in point was that of Christopher Neil, a Canadian accused of raping young boys in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia and posting photos of his sex on the Internet.
After a three-year hunt involving cutting edge technology and police on three continents, Neil, 32, was arrested in a dusty town, 250 km northeast of Bangkok, last week and will be charged with molesting underage children in Thailand.
Neil denies accusations that could land him in jail for 20 years and one teenager soon alleged the Canadian had paid him for oral sex.
But it took police days to convince a second teenager to say Neil paid him 500-1,000 baht ($15-$30) for each act of oral sex and put together a solid case against him, Wimol said.
Even if the abused children did cooperate, suspects were often freed on bail and paid them not to show up in court or change their testimonies, police said.
“With their influence and money, it is almost impossible to put them in jail,” said one of Wimol’s officers who declined to be identified.
Paedophiles have long headed to Thailand, a largely conservative, overwhelmingly Buddhist country where a large sex industry draws thousands upon thousands of foreigners among whom it is easy to hide, as well as other Southeast Asian countries.
Last year, Thai police launched a manhunt for JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr, found in possession of child pornography in the United States.
Karr, who worked as an English teacher, was arrested in a run-down Bangkok hostel and sent back to the United States, where he was eventually cleared of any involvement in Ramsey’s murder, one of America’s most infamous unsolved crimes.