This photo, provided by Thai immigration authorities and Interpol on Monday, shows Christoper Paul Neil arriving at Bangkok International Airport last Thursday. 
updated 10/17/2007 1:47:08 PM ET 2007-10-17T17:47:08

Police said they were closer Wednesday to finding a Canadian schoolteacher suspected of sexually abusing Cambodian and Vietnamese boys, expressing confidence he was still in Thailand and would not be able to slip out.

Border guards in Thailand and neighboring countries were on alert in case Christopher Paul Neil tried to leave Thailand. Cameras at the immigration counter captured him arriving at Bangkok’s international airport Thursday from South Korea.

“We are quite certain he is still in Thailand and we think we are moving closer,” police Col. Apichart Suribunya said. “Even if he uses a fake passport to try to get out of the country, his pictures are already published everywhere.”

The hunt for Neil began three years ago when German police discovered about 200 online photographs of a man sexually abusing 12 young Vietnamese and Cambodian boys, apparently as young as 6. The man’s face was digitally obscured, but a breakthrough in the case came when German police were able to reconstruct a recognizable image.

Neil, 32, was identified with the help of hundreds of tips from people responding to an unprecedented appeal by Interpol for public help. His photo was broadcast around the world Tuesday.

Thai authorities were collaborating with Interpol and police in several countries to gather sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant, said Apichart, who is coordinating the Thai investigation.

“We want to find this man as soon as possible to prevent him from abusing Thai children and other children,” he said.

Had been teen chaplain
Neil taught at schools in at least three Asian countries — South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Before teaching, he had worked as a chaplain in Canada, counseling teens.

Former colleagues in South Korea said he arrived in August to teach at the Gwangju school, a small international school in the city of Gwangju, about 186 miles southwest of Seoul. He failed to show up for work Thursday, and Interpol said he flew to Bangkok on a one-way, full-fare ticket.

“He was a very good teacher. Well-organized, well prepared. His kids really liked him,” said Ray Fowler, a Canadian teacher at the school who said he lived next door to Neil.

These images made available by Interpol show a suspected pedophile after and before the digital manipulation of the original photo found online.
He said Neil, who taught social studies and English in seventh and eighth grades, would join other teachers at his place to drink beer and listen to music on Friday nights.

It was a different story in Thailand, where officials said Neil taught at the Ramkhamhaeng Advent International School from August 2003 to January 2004.

“He didn’t pass the probation,” said Poramit Srikureja, an assistant chairman of the Christian school in Bangkok.

Poramit said the school gave Neil warnings about his teaching performance, in particular sloppy lesson plans and leaving students unsupervised in the classroom.

No sex abuse complaints at schools
Both schools said there were no complaints of abuse from parents or students where he was there.

Parents, however, were anxious and angry.

“My heart is still pounding,” said Moon Hyang-bun, who has two children at the school in South Korea. “I didn’t personally meet him but our kids liked him. ... He suddenly disappeared and our kids were perplexed and felt bad.”

Capt. Hope Carr, a public affairs officer for Canada’s military, said Neil worked as a chaplain and counselor for youths aged 12 to 18 from 1998 to 2000 at a cadet training center in Nova Scotia.

He will be extradited to Canada once he is arrested, said Kim Scanlan of the Toronto police child exploitation unit.

Police in Cambodia, which shares a border with Thailand, were scouring the country for anyone who might have known Neil, said Maj. Gen. Keo Vannthan, director of Cambodia’s Interpol bureau.

“If he comes to Cambodia, he will be immediately arrested,” Keo Vannthan said.

He said that records found by Cambodian immigration police Wednesday showed Neil entered the country on Feb. 8, 2005, as a tourist and left two days later on a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok.

He said Cambodian police had not yet been able to establish if Neil had committed any sexual abuses against Cambodian children but that they were still investigating.

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