Siem Reap attracts tourists and talent, but it also attracts dark-side denizens – internationally wanted desperadoes, villains, perverts and weirdoes.
In early 2014, two compelling mysteries surfaced in town which attracted more oddballs: shady private investigators and conspiracy theory nutters.
In January 2014, a story broke in the Siem Reap Insider that the answer to Australia’s most infamous unsolved crime mystery, the missing Beaumont children, might lurk somewhere in Siem Reap’s murky recesses, and authorities began looking at expat Tony Munro, a wealthy retired Australian businessman.
The mystery of the disappeared Beaumont children – Jane, 9; Arnna, 7; Grant, 4 – began in January 1966, when the siblings went to a beach near their home and were never seen again. Many rumours surfaced and years later several people alleged that Tony Munro had somehow been involved.
Meanwhile Munro had left Australia and in 2011 he opened a “gay friendly” venue, the Station Wine Bar in Siem Reap, featuring ladyboy performers.
In July 2011, he told Siem Reap Insider that the bar partly targeted men like him – men who had recently declared themselves to be gay.
But what he didn’t declare was that, as a former scout master in Australia, he was a long-time and previously convicted pedophile.
In 2014, a local NGO began raising questions about Munro and children, and in 2015 Australian news reports revealed that a businessman living in Southeast Asia was connected to the disappearance of the Beaumont children. It didn’t take long to emerge that the businessman was Munro.
In 2016, Munro returned to Australia to face charges over 10 child sex offences, and in August 2017 was jailed for ten years for his “repulsively evil” abuse of two boys between 1965 and 1983. One of those boys, now a grown man, alleged Munro was connected to the disappearance of the Beaumont children.
One month after the story about Munro first broke in Siem Reap, another mystery emerged when Dave Walker, a well-known Canadian expat went missing from his Siem Reap lodgings on February 14, 2014, and was found dead near the Gates of Death at Angkor Thom on May 1, 2014.
Walker himself was somewhat of a mysterious character. He had been a Toronto police constable, and had joined the British Army serving in Northern Ireland in combat against the IRA. He returned to Canada, worked as a private eye, and in the late 1980s was said to have ‘famously located’ a missing Cambodian refugee girl and reunited her with her family in Canada.
He worked with a the Canadian Intelligence Service identifying Khmer Rouge identities who’d entered Canada as refugees, and he trained Myanmar insurgents on the Thai border. From the 2000 onwards, he worked as a fixer for documentary makers and movies such The Beach. He also worked on his own film and documentaries and occasionally worked as a journalist.
With mysteries abounding, enter into the fray a seemingly amiable Australian oddball, James An, aka Su Jia, who, in publicity surrounding the launch of an exhibition of his paintings in Siem Reap’s Sokha Hotel in November 2013, described himself as a dedicated pedophile hunter.
He also claimed to be a Vietnam vet who had served a 16-year stint in the military, to have had worked for 22 years for an American intelligence service and had been jailed in China.
He threw himself into investigating both the Beaumont mystery – which had a A$1 million reward attached to it – and terrifying some locals who he interrogated. He also threw himself into Dave Walker’s case where some of those interviewed by him accused him of stand-over tactics.
But it wasn’t long before the investigator became the investigated, and James An was exposed as Guido Eglitis, who came complete with an alleged 30-year history of crime.
He had been featured in a 1998 Australian book titled ‘Scams and Swindlers’, he’d been sentenced to four years’ jail in the US on fraud charges in 1988, and he had fled Australia in 2007 while on bail on charges of kidnapping a Brisbane business man, deprivation of liberty, robbery, impersonating an officer and possessing restricted items.
Back in Siem Reap, on October 2015, Eglitis, posing as an Interpol agent, together with an accomplice, “interrogated” a suspected pedophile and this led to their arrest by Cambodian police who charged Eglitis and his mate with theft under aggravated circumstances from David Scotcher, 66, the British director of Cambodia-based education company Learn4Life, who said the duo took his passport and camera.
It transpired that Eglitis had mistakenly been convinced that Scotcher was in fact David Shom, a suspected Australian pedophile who’d been on the run for almost 20 years.
In yet another bizarre twist, it was also confirmed that Eglitis was working in concert with a Western Australian Police Child Abuse Squad detective, with the detective advising Eglitis how to obtain fingerprints.
That incident earned Eglitis almost a year in prison in Cambodia and on October 29, 2016, he was released and deported to Bangkok where he was spotted in the nightclub district by journalists. In mid-November 2016 he was detained by Thai police and deported to Australia where he was arrested on arrival, and in October 2017, he was jailed for three years and three months.
And there it stands. At least two people have been jailed for activities in the Siem Reap mysteries, and – at time of writing – one more man who lived in Siem Reap and worked with Munro, is facing over 80 charges related to child sex offences in Australia.
But the mysteries still linger on – cases not solved.