Accused child abuser, 93, caught fleeing into Burma

A 93-year-old Australian man attempted to escape charges that he raped four young Thai sisters by fleeing illegally into Burma, Thai police say.

But instead of being taken to Burma's largest city, Rangoon, and deported to Australia, Karl Joseph Kraus, a former railway worker, was escorted by Burmese police and officials back across the border into the hands of Thai police.

Looking frail and dishevelled, Mr Kraus pleaded to be returned to Burma where he had been staying illegally for about a month after skipping bail on Thai charges of rape and sexual abuse.

''Where am I? Take me back to Burma. I want to go. You are illegal. My embassy should be here,'' he pleaded with Thai officials late on Friday at the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge near the northern Thai city of Chiangmai.

When asked what he had been doing in Burma, Mr Kraus replied: ''Mostly in jail.''

Sitting in a border office surrounded by Thai and Burmese officials, Mr Kraus said: ''I am 93 years old and you treat me like this … it is so illegal.

''The embassy man should be here. Why do you like this?''

A Burmese official, who declined to give his name, said Mr Kraus entered Burma by illegally crossing a river and travelled to the Karen state capital of Pa-an where he rented a room for several weeks until his arrest on July 24.

Burmese authorities discovered he had entered Burma illegally when they checked his travel documents.

The charges against Mr Kraus are among the most serious Thai police have investigated in recent years.

Police allege one of four under-age sisters he lured to his house with promises of imported chocolates and English lessons was aged five when alleged abuses began.

Police allege they seized more than 100 photographs of naked children, including some with him posing with them.

Police say Mr Kraus gave the children money.

They allege he emailed some pictures overseas, suggesting he was part of an international paedophilia network, which police are investigating.

The girls' parents told police they learnt of the alleged abuse when they asked the girls what was wrong because they had lost interest in playing outside.

Police say Mr Kraus approached the girls' family in 2008 with an offer to teach the sisters English.

He has been a frequent long-stay visitor in Thailand for more than a decade.

Mr Kraus claims he was the victim of an extortion attempt by Thai authorities, who levelled bogus charges against him. His family in Australia say he has been denied access to medicine and proper care while facing the charges, which were laid in June 2010.

They say that, while Mr Kraus was in custody, it was made clear to him the charges would be dropped if he paid the equivalent of $14,175 to several parties, including Thai officials.

Berlin-born Mr Kraus has been an Australian citizen for decades.

A new judge was recently appointed to hear the charges against Mr Kraus, meaning his trial will probably not be heard for months.

Neighbours say that, until recently, Mr Kraus drove a car and appeared spritely, but he has appeared in a wheelchair at his most recent court appearances.

Thai police colonel Apichart Hathsin, who has investigated Mr Kraus since 2010, warned that the opening of Burma to outsiders was attracting foreign criminals.

He also called for an increase in bail for Thai suspects. ''In most cases of foreign paedophiles escaping conviction, they usually post bail and then make a run for it, out of the country,'' Colonel Hathsin said.

'' I think it would be a good idea to increase the amount of bail to correspond with the suspect's original country. Otherwise, they will be able to afford the bail and then escape.''

The story Accused child abuser, 93, caught fleeing into Burma first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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