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

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be