NGO Campaign Targets Child-Sex Tourism

AIDeTouS, a French-based NGO, inaugurated its “Stop Pedophile Tourism in Cambodia” campaign Tuesday. Its program manager, Frederic Thomas, said Wednesday the project will be a con­certed effort between em­bassies, NGOs, the Ministry of Tourism and national authorities to combat the child-sex business, and also to create new sources of income for the exploited.

“We plan to make a different kind of project with a holistic ap­proach,” he said. “We don’t want to only fight against pedophilia but combat poverty also.”

According to AIDeTouS, the sexual exploitation of children is on the rise, and foreigners are largely to blame. “Examples of in­creasing demand from virginity seekers or pedophiles appear in all AIDeTouS surveys.

For example, in the Svay Pak area, the [frequency] of Western sex tourists in December 2002 [has in­creased] by 42 percent comparing to December 2001,” according to a copy of Thomas’ prepared re­marks.

A survey of 203 prostitutes conducted in partnership with Phar­maciens Sans Frontieres showed 55.1 percent of respondents claiming their first customers were foreigners, and, among those, 79 percent were tourists.

The survey also found that a significant number of the young girls’ clients were Chinese. While it reportedly was noticed that no Chi­nese diplomats attended AIDeTouS’ conference, Thomas said Wednesday the Chinese Em­bas­­sy had called to apologize for its absence and voiced its support for the anti-pedophilia campaign.

“We really want to work with them,” Thomas said. “They don’t need to be ashamed of their nationals.”

He said that most Chinese sex tourists are not actual pedophiles, turned on by pre-adolescent youths. Rather they seek virgins be­cause they believe that sex with them can cure or protect against AIDS. That unfounded superstition is also widely held in parts of Africa.

Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth said Wednesday that, in addition to its surveys, AIDeTouS will be working to educate those in law enforcement and the courts, two traditionally corrupt sectors that have allowed foreign sex criminals to slip away on numerous occasions.

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