Former Aussie Diplomat Faces Thai Court’s Child Porn Ruling

Jeff Berg
BANGKOK — A former Australian diplomat accused of distributing child pornography for trade will have his fate decided by a Thai court Friday.

Robert Scoble, 56, once described by colleagues as a “witty, urbane, and politically shrewd” diplomat, was arrested by Thai police in March and charged with possessing and distributing pornography and employing unregistered foreign workers.

After his arraignment, Scoble was immediately rearrested and charged in connection with pornographic images of children that were allegedly discovered in his Bangkok apartment.

The former diplomat denied the charges, which would have netted him a fine of roughly $192 if he had pleaded guilty, and now faces the possibility of a three-year prison sentence.

Scoble claims that images found on hard drive of his computer, described as containing young, naked boys, were intended for personal use and not distribution.

In Thailand, possession of adult materials, including child pornography, is legal provided it is only for private use.

A former diplomat to Vietnam, Scoble left his post in 1984 amid allegations that he had sent semi-naked pictures of young boys to another diplomat using an embassy mail bag.

After leaving the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Scoble began a business career in Southeast Asia, eventually founding Spice Trade Travel, a gay and lesbian-targeted tour agency.

Scoble resigned from Spice Trade after his arrest.

According to Australian media reports made in July, Scoble’s arrest might be the first in an wide-spread effort by officials to crack down on a pedophile ring operating within the Australian government and known about for almost 20 years.

The presence of Australian Federal Police near Scoble’s place of incarceration and the urging of the Australian Embassy add fuel to the fire.

“I think that we’re really only skimming the top of the iceberg,” Bernadette McMenamin, national director of children’s protection organization Child Wise, told the Australian Broadcasting Channel.

In 1995, then-Liberal Australian parliament member Ken Aldred made a speech to the House listing several diplomats suspected of dealing in child pornography.

Within months, Foreign Affairs Department Asia Specialist Alastair Gaisford began compiling and investigating a list of 20 names, which he then whittled down to just 12.

After receiving Gaisford’s list, the Australian Federal Police launched only one case.

The Foreign Affairs Department then engaged in a prolonged legal battle with Gaisford in an attempt to fire him.

“When you have a department that prefers to employ child molesters and would sooner spend millions of dollars trying to sack those trying to do something about it, it speaks for itself, surely,” Gaisford told the ABC.