Tran Phu Street in the southern Vietnamese city of Vung Tao. Hidden
among the trees, the house was the perfect hideaway for someone who
didn't want his activities scrutinised by prying eyes. It was exactly
what Paul Francis Gadd - better known by his stage name, Gary Glitter -
was looking for.
After Glitter was released from jail in Britain on child pornography
charges he initially left for Cuba, where he found a young wife. But
unwelcome there the former glam-rock star set his sights on the
paedophile's golden triangle of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Expelled from Cambodia, Vietnam seemed the ideal lair - where he is said to have set himself up with a string of young girls.
The age of consent in Vietnam is 16, and it is illegal for a
Vietnamese national to have sex with or stay in the house of a foreigner
without a police permit. But while this law is fairly strictly enforced
in Hanoi and North Vietnam, the south of the country is a very
Vung Tau is a city that earns its money from its massage parlours and
'bia hoi' ('beer and a cuddle') roadside shacks. The beaches are
polluted and nightlife is all it has to offer.
One expat says Glitter would simply have had to make small payments
to the police for them to turn a blind eye to his activities.
'All the neighbours would have known what he was up to and have
reported his behaviour to the authorities,' says the source. 'He would
have needed to pre-empt that. But he need not have to pay much more than
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£50 to protect himself.
'You have to look at this in the Asian context. Local foreigners all
seem to have wives much younger than themselves. Some of them even went
to Gary's parties. He's probably just a bit of a lad to some of them.'
For Glitter, money and a local fixer was a passport to the lifestyle
he desired. His presence was known by many expats who work in the city,
either in the oil trade or running bars. But it took eight months for
one of them to tell a British journalist that Glitter had been spotted.
He was caught leaving his home shortly after 2pm on November 12 with a
very young girl on the back of his electric blue Honda Wave motorcycle.
He had not been hard to find. Many motorcycle taxi drivers knew the
'angry foreigner' who always used to drive the wrong way through
roundabouts and swore at people coming in the other direction.
Glitter went shopping for food and medicine and took his own temperature on the street after purchasing a
He was clearly unwell. Four hours later, having been 'outed', he fled
with two girls in a chauffeur-driven Toyota heading back to Ho Chi Minh
City - the former Saigon - where he was finally cornered at the
Today Glitter will be charged with engaging in 'perverse activities
with children' - a charge punishable by up to 12 years in jail. He has
denied the allegations, insisting that he was just helping the girls
with their English.
Paedophiles like Asia. The children are cute, submissive and obedient.
There is well-beaten trail followed by men, usually middle aged, often rich
and all seeking something forbidden and abhorrent their homelands.
For many paedophiles, and Britain is at the top of the list, the
trail starts and finishes in tourist friendly Thailand. But it quickly
leads on to the fleshpots of Cambodia and Vietnam with a paedophile
network on the internet spreading the word on new locations.
Poverty is almost certainly a factor in this ugly trade. But Thailand
is considerably better off than many Third World countries which do not
have such a trade. Many point to the corrupt police and legal systems
in all the countries concerned.
Quite often police officers are directly involved in the trade. If
not there police officers, lawyers and court officials waiting to take a
pay-off to ensure an acquittal.
Kickbacks in this trade are all pervasive and a nightmare for child
activists such as Sudarat Sereewat of Thailand's Coalition to Fight
Against Child Exploitation.
'We know of the existence of a fund which contains some 320 million
Thai baht (Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£4.5 million) for use by paedophiles when they are arrested,'
she says. 'That shows there are some rich and influential people among
'Time and again paedophiles are arrested and acquitted in Thailand -even when they are caught naked with their young charges.'
Glitter has previously tried to hide in Cambodia. After leaving Cuba,
he rented a house with a swimming pool in Takdal on the outskirts of
Phnom Penh. The city is full of places where very young girls are
Even though signs along the road from the capital's Pochentong
airport say, 'If you have sex with a child in Cambodia you will be
prosecuted back home too,' taxi drivers are known to tout 12-year-old
virgins for Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£250 for the week. Rates for non-virgins range from Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£10 down
Glitter had almost the perfect setup. His house could not be
photographed from the road. Neighbours were on his payroll. His best
friend was Cheng Phon, a former Minister of Culture. His neighbour on
the other side was Tai Sinto, under secretary at the Ministry of Works.
Prime Minister Hun Sen lived less than a mile away.
With cash and smart lawyers, it seemed he could not be dislodged. But
due to campaigning by Mu Sochua, Cambodia's outspoken Minister of Women
and Veterans' Affairs, he was finally arrested and deported over
Christmas 2002. No real reasons were given, although allegations of
child abuse were mentioned at the time of his arrest.
Meanwhile, his lawyers in Phnom Penh claim they are now suing the government for taking illegal actions against him.
The gap between the letter of the law and its practice is the same
across the region, where the notional clean-up of the sex industry
conflicts with economic interest.
Ten years ago the Thai government made it illegal for girls under the
age of 18 to enter the sex trade. However, Bangkok still has touts
offering tourists much younger children.
Most foreign paedophiles head for the eastern seaside resort of
Pattaya, which thrives on its sex trade. Owners of sex establishments
pay the police to declare their establishments are not actually
involved. It is against the law to run an establishment offering sexual
Scores of Britons have been arrested in Thailand but most have been acquitted or left the country while on bail.
They have included magistrates, teachers and social workers. The former
deputy head of a children's home in London has been charged with
offences against young boys and got bail with ease.
When interviewed recently he said: 'I have no worries. I will be acquitted. Of course I am innocent.'
The man, who has been exposed for alleged offences in the UK, may be
right when he said he has no legal problems, as can a former British
Honorary Consul in Pattaya, who was entrapped by a newspaper for dealing
in child pornography.
So serious is the problem from British paedophiles that Sudarat
Sereewat has called on Britain to cancel the passports of all British
'Of our current caseload in the Thai courts the Britons are right at
the top of the list with 18. Next are the French with 12 followed by
nine each from Germany and the United States, and five Swiss and five
Australians,' she says.
'There are legitimate reasons for stopping these Britons from
travelling to South-east Asia. If they get caught here there is ample
evidence that money can solve problems.
'Even the parents can be approached by lawyers. The parents would
rather take cash sums than let their children go through the court
system. Some just see it as a damage which should be paid for.
'We would be glad if these paedophiles were simply prevented from arriving here.'
Meanwhile, as the Glitter drama continues, there are indications that
this is becoming too much of a headache for Vietnamese authorities.
'We are very confused in dealing with this case,' a Vung Tau People's Committee source was reported as saying.
'If we bring him to court it will be legally complicated as it involves the detention of a foreigner in Vietnam.
However, if we don't bring him to court, other countries will not respect Vietnam in the field of fighting child abuse.'
'That's quite typical,' says another source. 'Vietnam can save face
by deporting him, while at the same time taking something under the
table to dismiss a prosecution.'
Footnote: Glitter was finally charged with child abuse, but
he was allowed to escape child rape charges after paying the families of
two girls US$2000 in a settlement agreed with police and the court.