Child sex tourism is continuing to damage the lives of young Cambodians, while the internet is enabling perpetrators to carry out abuse, the Justice Minister has warned.
Speaking at a workshop on child sexual exploitation in the travel industry, Ang Vong Vathana said Cambodia still has too few laws to address the issue.
Mr Vong Vathana said the problem was growing as tourism in the country becomes increasingly popular.
In some instances, perpetrators are using online booking systems to pick out children to abuse and negotiate a price for them before arriving in Cambodia.
“It’s difficult to prevent this because we do not know exactly how these online systems work and we do not have enough laws to prevent it yet,” he said. “Technology is developing and our laws need to keep pace with that. We are making an effort to deal with it.
“We have been cooperating with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and with Europe and Australia, so we are cracking down on some cases.”
Mr Vong Vathana said the government is planning to amend several laws to prevent child sexual exploitation in tourism and other sectors.
Noriko Shibata, UNODC representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said governments in Asean have established policies to combat child sexual exploitation, but perpetrators still pose a serious threat to children, particularly since Asean allows easy movement between its nations.
Chhan Sokunthea, head of women and children’s rights at Adhoc, said Cambodia has laws to prevent child sexual exploitation but these are not being fully implemented.
“Sometimes, suspects who are arrested negotiate a settlement to the case outside the court system,” she said.
“There should be punishment for perpetrators according to the rule of law.
“Otherwise those who commit such offences may think they can get away with abusing Cambodian children.”