Foreign Teachers Now On Child Pornography Watch In Thailand

Thai police may begin making background checks on foreign teachers after arresting two on pornography- related charges in less than two weeks, authorities said this week.

"It shouldn't be enough to wear white shirts and have a university degree. We need to know their background," said police Col. Apichart Suribunya, head of Thailand's liaison office for Interpol, the international police agency.

Paul Cornelius Jones, 39, who has lived in Thailand for seven years, was arrested Tuesday after police raided his Bangkok apartment and found a computer containing hundreds of photos of naked boys and girls, Apichart said.

His arrest came after Thai police arrested Christopher Paul Neil of Canada on Oct. 19 on charges of having sex with several young Asian boys.

Jones was arrested after a tip-off from British counterparts, who told police Jones had been sending photos of naked children to Britain over the Internet, Apichart said.

Jones had been working as a teacher at a Bangkok private school, police said.

"It's easy for teachers to gain trust and respect from people, especially in Asian cultures which hold teachers in high regard," Apichart said.

He said police would seek records of any convictions in home countries and from Thai immigration police before teachers are hired. Police also are considering background checks of foreign teachers already in Thailand, he said.

"Academic background is one thing, but we need to also check for other information," Apichart said.

There are more than 1,000 foreign teachers legally working in Thailand, he said.

Jones, of Cardiff, Wales, has been charged with distributing pornographic photographs of children under age 15, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, Apichart said.

Another officer in the Thai Interpol office, Maj. Phongphon Iamwicharn, said Jones did not appear in the photos, and that there was evidence he had sold the pictures.

Thailand became a focus of cases of sexual abuse of children after Interpol began a manhunt for an alleged child abuser, Christopher Paul Neil, earlier this month. It issued an unprecedented worldwide appeal to identify and apprehend him.

Interpol found about 200 pictures on the Internet of Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese boys being sexually abused by a man whose face was digitally obscured. German police computer experts unscrambled the photos so the man's face was recognizable and tip-offs led Interpol to identify Neil as a suspect.

He was arrested by Thai police and charged with child sexual abuse, but police are still investigating the case.

Neil has also worked as a teacher at schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Several Southeast Asian countries are popular among pedophiles and sex abusers because of poverty that drives children and their parents to accept money for sexual favors, and sometimes because of lax law enforcement.

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