British Ambassador David Reader on Monday urged Cambodian police to fight child sex abuse perpetrated by their fellow countrymen, rather than focusing disproportionately on arresting Westerners who abuse children.
Addressing an audience of NGO workers, lawyers, officials and 26 police officers on the first day of a child protection training workshop funded by the British Embassy, Reader said that there should be “more prosecution of Khmers and other nationals [for child sex abuse], not just Westerners.”
Reader added that the responsibility to curb child sex abuse rests with Cambodian authorities.
“We in the West have taken the conscious decision to fight [child sex abuse in Cambodia]…. But the job is very much yours,” he said at the World Vision Cambodia conference center in Chamkar Mon district, where training will continue through Friday.
Most child-sex offenders arrested and prosecuted in Cambodia are Cambodians, said Keo Thea, deputy chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking department.
Out of hundreds arrested for child sexual abuse in 2006, Keo Thea said that more than 10 were Westerners, though he could not recall an exact figure.
He added that police have difficulty convicting many suspected child-sex offenders due to a lack of evidence.
Un Sokunthea, director of anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection in the Interior Ministry, said 670 Cambodians and foreign nationals were arrested for child abuse last year, 92 of whom were handed prison sentences of between five and 75 years.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the authorities do not exclusively target either foreign or Cambodian sex abusers.
Haidy Ear-Dupuy, advocacy and communications manager at World Vision Cambodia, said cases of foreign sex abuse are more visible and often receive more media attention.
Cambodian police are badly in need of training about victims’ rights, as outdated investigation techniques tend to place the burden of proof on victims, Haidy Ear-Dupuy added.