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Briton speaks out after ‘Cambodia pornography’ ordeal

Thomas Jeffries was one of seven Westerners deported from the holiday destination last week.

One of five Britons accused of “producing pornographic pictures” at a Cambodian pool party said the gathering was “like every other day” in the holiday hotspot.

Thomas Jeffries, 22, from Hampshire, was among 10 Westerners who were arrested on January 25 at the event in a villa in Siem Reap, a tourist town near the Angkor Wat temple.

Police accused the group of posting lewd pictures of the event online, but all those arrested deny the charges and claim they have no link to years-old photos circulating of partygoers apparently simulating sex positions.

Mr Jeffries had been working in bars and hostels in the popular holiday destination for two years, but was deported back to the UK last week.

It’s a shame to leave because I had so many good friends there, both Cambodian and Westerners Thomas Jeffries

He said: “It’s a shame to leave because I had so many good friends there, both Cambodian and Westerners. It’s been my home for two years. I loved the country, it is a fantastic place, really kind people.

“The villa was much like every other day in Siem Reap, very similar to any hostel, pool or bar, anywhere that I’ve been to in the country. I didn’t see any reason why it would be any different. Then the police arrived.

“It had just tipped it down with rain so people were all hiding under cover moments before. All I saw were people cowering from the rain and having a few beers.

“The music wasn’t even that loud.”

The group, who were pictured in orange prison uniforms and some with shaved heads, did not know how long they would remain in custody.

Mr Jeffries said: “It was a scary time for all of us. There were always concerns in the back of our heads but at that point I guess we didn’t really understand the severity of the situation.”

Seven of them – Mr Jeffries, fellow Brits Vincent Harley Robert Hook, 35, Billy Stevens, 21, and Paul Francis Harris, 33; Canadians Jessica Drolet, 26, and Eden Koazoleas, 19; and 32-year-old New Zealander Paul Martin Brasc – were all deported last week.

Briton Daniel Richard Leeming Jones, 30, Dutchman Job Robertus van der Wel, 22, and Norwegian David Nikolaus Aleksandr Ballovarre, 22, remain in custody.

Mr Jeffries’ father Gary, 48, said: “He did not know that attending a social pool-side event, which happen almost every day in Siem Reap, would be offensive to Cambodian culture and sincerely apologises to anyone who was. Tom meant no disrespect to the Cambodian people.

“The charges are denied by Tom and by the rest of the group. I think everyone has been very clear that there was nothing that could be construed as pornography going on.

“Particularly in the British media there is one picture that has been used over and over again of a load of young people sat astride each other.

“It’s a picture from three or four years ago and predates Tom’s time in Cambodia and is nothing to do with any of the people that were arrested and detained.

“It was obviously quite an ordeal for him.”

The Foreign Office said it is continuing to assist a British man who was arrested in Cambodia.


From Belfast Telegraph