Interior Ministry Defends Efforts Against Child Sex

The Interior Ministry on Tues­day defended its efforts to protect children from sexual tourism, releasing a detailed rebuttal of remarks recently attributed to a UN rights envoy.

Juan Miguel Petit, UN special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, told reporters in Geneva on Friday that India, Thailand and Cambodia were not doing enough to protect children from sexual abuse for fear of losing tourism revenues, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

Speaking outside an ongoing session of the Human Rights Council, Petit denounced an “insane form of tourism that puts at risk the lives of hundreds and hundreds of children,” according to AFP.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry accused Petit of ignoring Cambodia’s efforts to combat child sex tourism.

“Juan Miguel Petit’s criticism that Cambodia has no will to solve [the problem of] child sex tourism reveals his carelessness in following the situation,” the statement said.

Cambodia has established a national committee to coordinate efforts with anti-trafficking NGOs and in 2007 arrested 148 suspects in 103 cases, the statement said, adding that so far this year officials have also provided assistance to 224 alleged victims and arrested 77 suspects.

“These results show the effectiveness of government policy,” the statement said, noting the recent conviction of prominent Russian investor Alexander Trofimov, who was sentenced in Phnom Penh to 13 years in prison Friday for the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl, one of his 19 alleged victims.

A spokesman for the UN Child­ren’s Fund in Phnom Penh on Wed­­nesday said the agency’s chief of child protection, Lesley Miller, was unfamiliar with the remarks attributed to Petit and could not comment.

In a 23-page report delivered to the council on Friday, Petit said that in 2005 he had sought an invitation to visit Cambodia but did not list Cambodia among countries that had so far responded positively to such requests.

Petit also noted that in 2007 Cambodia had become a party to a UN anti-human trafficking protocol and that the Australian and German governments were sponsoring programs to combat human trafficking here.

SRP Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said Wednesday she felt Cambodia remained a destination for child sex tourism and that the Interior Ministry had not done enough.

“There has been no solution to the issue,” she said. “The prostitution has changed its image by turning to karaoke and guest houses. The prostitution is blooming like flowers.”

   (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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