The Child Protection Unit (CPU), a police unit supported by the Cambodian Children’s Fund, investigated 292 cases involving serious crimes against children in 2015, its director of operations said on Tuesday.
These crimes included 32 homicides, 202 rapes, two gang rapes, six indecent assaults, four serious assaults and four kidnappings, according to the director, James McCabe.
Speaking at the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence during a CPU-sponsored conference on the treatment of child victims by the judicial system, Mr. McCabe said that an increase in child-on-child crimes had been particularly sobering.
“We have seen an increase in reports of child-on-child homicide and child-on-child rape this year,” he said, adding that the CPU had investigated 33 such cases in 2015.
The CPU investigated 221 crimes against children in 2014, but was only working in 18 provinces at the time, so the figures are not directly comparable. Mr. McCabe said that while the levels of most crimes had held steady from 2014 to 2015, last year’s high number of homicides was “unexpected.”
“It has been a tragic year,” he said, noting that there were 16 recorded homicides involving children in 2014.
“Cambodia is struggling with crimes against children just like any other country,” he added. “There is not one specific reason.”
Mr. McCabe said Battambang province experienced most cases of serious crimes against children last year, followed by Siem Reap province and Phnom Penh.
Chet Vanny, Battambang’s deputy provincial police chief, confirmed that his province led the country in crimes against children last year, although he declined to provide a specific figure.
He blamed a number of factors: “Parents often leaving their children alone in the house while they go out, heavy drinking, pornography, remote dwellings and poor education levels.” He said that children tasked with tending cattle—a common practice in rural areas—were particularly vulnerable to crime.
“We are working hard to pay more attention to such cases, and we are informing villagers to be careful with their children,” he said.