Officials Resigned to Child Porn Presence in City

When Thomas Reedy was convicted in August 2001 of possessing and distributing child pornography, a judge in Texas sentenced the US national to 1,335 years in prison.

Before his arrest, the 37-year-old had made millions from his notorious “Landslide” Web site, where subscribers paid to see child porn produced in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Even when the computer programmer appealed his sentence, a judge would only reduce it to 180 years behind bars.

Amid revelations that child pornography is freely and cheaply available at a central Phnom Penh market, Cambodian officials Thursday expressed either resignation or apathy toward the city’s child porn vendors, who merely risk having their VCDs confiscated and, at most, a fine.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth questioned whet­her the pornographic VCDs sold around Phsar Thmei actually featured children, or adults pretending to be children.

“I have not seen it yet,” he said. “It could be fake. We don’t know if it’s real or not.”

And if there really are children in the short sick films, they are probably not Cambodians, Touch Naruth added.

“I don’t believe that Khmer children are even like that. Maybe they are Vietnamese,” he said.

Touch Naruth said the Mini­stry of Culture is the body responsible for combating child porn, but he felt that producers and distributors of such material should be punished equally.

“If we don’t punish them, they will sell it in secret again,” he said.

But punishment for child por­nography distributors, sellers and buyers is precisely what Cambodia lacks.

Unicef expressed outrage Wed­nesday that Cambodian children are being used in pornography and, in the absence of legislation in Cambodia outlawing child porn, called on the public to report such material.

But to whom to report it?

Ministry of Culture Under­secretary of State Sam Sokun said he was unaware of the availability of child porn. So did Prince Sisowath Kola Chat, a secretary of state at the ministry. Sam Sokun said that if it did exist, it should be investigated, while Prince Kola Chat declined to comment further.

Sam Sokun gave a telephone number for another ministry official who heads a committee to fight pornography. Secretary of State Khim Sarith, however, could not be contacted by telephone Thursday.

The child sex films sold at Phsar Thmei this week included the Khmer language titles “Luring Underage Child,” and “70-Year-Old Grandfather Rapes 9-Year-Old Girl.”

One of the films featured very young girls being abused by two middle-aged Western men at Phnom Penh’s Svay Pak village, and included scenes of sexual torture and a child bound wrists to ankles with silver duct tape as she is raped.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith said it is more important for authorities to focus on catching the producers of child porn, rather than the poor who are peddling it.

“You want to punish the poor people?” he asked Thursday. “We have to discourage them but not punish them.”

Although there is no law to prosecute child porn distributors, there is a sub-decree that allows for all porn to be confiscated, he said.

Khieu Kanharith referred further questions to Culture Minister Prince Sisowath Panara Serey­vuth, who could not be contacted.

Police officers could not find child pornography during a visit to Phsar Thmei on Thursday morning, said Keo Thea, deputy director of the municipal anti-human trafficking police.

Though reporters obtained a dozen different child sex films between Monday and Wednes­day—and were offered scores more—Keo Thea said his officers’ visit to the market proves that child porn is not freely available in the capital.

“We were walking to try to find it, but there was none,” he said.

Child pornography produced outside Cambodia was not his department’s concern, Keo Thea added.

“There is only one VCD involving Svay Pak,” he said of the dozen child sex films obtained by journalists this week at the market.

“For foreign VCDs, we don’t know where to find the criminals and children. It’s like finding a needle at the bottom of the sea,” he added.

Porn dealers may have downloaded the foreign child sex films from the Internet, Keo Thea added.

He would not comment, however, on how the Svay Pak child abuse footage made it into the local market as a packaged child porn movie.

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.