UN: Child Sex, Pornography Still Widespread

Cambodia has taken insufficient measures to combat child pornography and child sex abuse in the country, a U.N. watchdog said in a report Thursday.

In a critique of Cambodia’s implementation of U.N. guidelines designed to protect children, which the country signed in 2000, the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child said that while steps have been taken to abide by the guidelines, more needs to be done.

“[T]he Committee deeply regrets that preventive measures regarding offences prohibited by the Optional Protocol remain inadequate and fragmentary,” the report says, referring to the guidelines.

In the report, the U.N. argues that Cambodia has not done enough to stop the production, distribution and possession of child pornography and calls on the government to revise the anti-human trafficking law to more clearly identify and criminalize it.

The definition should “encompass acts of producing, distributing, disseminating, importing, exporting, offering, selling, as well as possessing or knowingly accessing or viewing child pornography,” it says.

Also of concern, the report says, is the sexual exploitation of children at entertainment venues and reports of child abuse by foreign tourists at orphanages. It does not cite statistics or specific examples of such abuse.

Samleang Seila, county director of anti-pedophile NGO Action pour les Enfants, whose work focuses on foreign perpetrators, said his group believes child sex abuse at orphanages is on the rise.

“Children in these institution are more vulnerable to abuse,” he said. “We have to discourage any tourism into institutions that are supposed to care for children and protect children.”

Mr. Seila also said the government has done too little to tackle child pornography.

“It is increasing; more people have access to the Internet and are able to share material online,” he said.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, said child abuse at entertainment venues, particularly karaoke parlors, is rampant.

“I think this related a lot to power; the people make a lot of money,” Ms. Sopheap said, referring to owners of the venues.

“We need to make sure the lawmakers understand this is a serious case happening in the country and is not acceptable.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he had not yet seen the U.N.’s critique, but that the government had clear and sufficient policies to protect children, which he called “the pillar of the nation.”

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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