Anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants on Friday said that it cooperated with authorities to crack down on 18 child sex cases involving more than 10 foreigners last year.
Executive director Samleang Seila said that in the first few months of this year around two or three cases involving foreigners have been uncovered so far.
Speaking at a workshop on International Cooperation in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Travelling Child Sex Offenders in Phnom Penh, he noted that over the past 10 years, Aple has rescued more than 800 children and more than 300 people, including 130 foreigners who were punished according to the law.
Mr Seila urged the authorities to crack down on child sex tourism, noting that while sex crimes against children appear to have decreased Aple believes there are still a number of foreign paedophiles visiting the Kingdom.
“We still think that Cambodia is a popular target of sex tourists even though the authorities have stepped up crackdowns,” he said.
Mr Seila said that many offenders pretend to be doing humanitarian work by “rescuing children” from poor families promising to take care of their education and other needs.
He said these paedophiles then lure the children to stay with them in their rental houses and sexually abuse them.
“It is difficult to crack down on such cases because, unlike rapes, the perpetrators pose as good people and are respected by the parents and community who are not aware of or are unwilling to report the crimes,” Mr Seila said. “When a child is raped, the parents or neighbours immediately report it to the authorities.”
“The victims are from poor families which become dependent on financial support from the paedophiles and are reluctant to report any sexual abuse,” he added.
Mr Seila noted cases of foreign paedophiles who follow poor street children back to their homes and convince their parents that they will care for them.
He added that most of the foreign paedophiles caught in Cambodia usually came from countries such as the US, England, Australia and France but recently there are reports that some of those who are on international watch-lists are coming from European countries, including Finland and Sweden.
Lieutenant General Chiv Phally, director of Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Police Department, said at the workshop that Cambodian police are strengthening cooperation with their overseas counterparts to crack down on child sex tourists.
“We continue to cooperate with relevant people to crack down and protect children from these criminals,” he said.
He noted that police officers find it difficult to investigate cases where the victims’ families do not cooperate with them.
Lt Gen Phally said that police officers are now cooperating closely with the local authorities to disseminate information on child sex crimes to owners of guesthouses, hotels and rental houses, adding that undercover officers are also monitoring places which paedophiles are known to frequent.
He appealed to parents not to leave their children alone, especially when they go out to work and instead keep them under the care of people whom they trust.
Brigadier General Duong Thavary, Siem Reap provincial deputy police chief who was also at the workshop, said there are cases where parents are unwilling to cooperate with police officers because of financial benefits after being informed that their children are being abused.
“When we ask the victims’ family to cooperate with our police officers, some of them deny that any crime has taken place and do not file a complaint against the suspects,” she added.