Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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NZ Herald
November 8, 2003

New Zealander facing sex charges in Cambodia
by Catherine Masters

By day New Zealand tour guide Graham Robert Cleghorn would regale backpackers with tales of war and adventure.

By night he allegedly forced young Cambodian girls, brought from poor rural areas to his home as housekeepers, to have sex with him.

The expatriate Kiwi, 55, and his Cambodian wife, 23, are in jail in Cambodia, although they have not yet been formally charged, according to New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Under Cambodian law Cleghorn could be held without charge for up to six months, says ministry spokeswoman Emma Reilly.

Reports from Cambodia said Cleghorn had already been charged in a provincial court. One account said he was charged with raping three teenagers at his home in the northern town of Siem Reap, about 230km northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, and another said he had allegedly raped more than half a dozen underage girls.

The former Wellingtonian has lived in Siem Reap for about 10 years and was arrested after an investigation lasting nearly six months. Reports said an illegal gun was found at his home and that he may be charged with paedophilia.

It is claimed it was his wife's job to find the young girls from the remote countryside. They were allegedly paid to work in the home, forced to have sex and threatened if they refused.

One of the arresting officers said: "Every night he would take one girl to sleep with him and if any of the girls were hurt he would pay her two to five dollars as compensation."

Rumours are rife in the Siem Reap expatriate community that Cleghorn may have been set up.

This had allegedly happened to another expatriate in order to get his land, a bar owner, who did not want to be named, told the Herald.

"There are some rumours that a little bit of this also was with Graham [Cleghorn], that some people are interested in his land."

Tourists head to Siem Reap to visit the ancient ruined temples of Angkor Wat and internet postings recommend Cleghorn as a brilliant but expensive guide.

"He adjusts his tours to the tourist's needs and takes 'higher risk' tours into areas that foreigners rarely saw," says one. "He speaks the Khmer language pretty fluently and all the locals know and respect him.

"If you are at all worried about safety this is your man. He has served in Vietnam, was in the French Foreign Legion and has been living in Cambodia for many years."

The Ex-Vietnam Services Association has no record of Cleghorn serving for New Zealand or Australia. The Herald understands he did enlist in the New Zealand Army, in 1965, but was discharged after a year for going absent without leave - and never served overseas.

Another internet posting, on a chatline, asks if Cleghorn was still running the Minefield Bar in Siem Reap.

"He used to drive a hot UN white Land Rover and carry a Glock with US-embassy issue Hydra Shok 9mm Para [ammunition] in it," the posting says.

Yet another says he would provide a high level of security if requested, and "can fill the evenings with war stories and has the pictures to back them up".

A relative in New Zealand, who did not want to be named, said he was shocked at the arrest and the allegations were out of character.

Cleghorn is originally from Petone and has three daughters.

The relative said he had never been a soldier - but had held various jobs, including traffic officer, fireman, ambulance officer and real estate agent.

"I believe he went across there as a monk or something, didn't he?"