[Stop-traffic] Officials turn blind eye to child trafficking

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] Officials turn blind eye to child trafficking
From: Ann Jordan (Annj@HRLawgroup.org)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 14:27:45 EDT


> Phnom Penh Post, August 4 - 17, 2000
>
> Officials turn blind eye to child trafficking
> By Vong Sokheng
>
> Human rights groups and individual police officers are noticing an
> increase
> in child trafficking and prostitution and a lack of enthusiasm by the
> authorities to address the problem.
>
> The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
> (LICADHO) and Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
> told the Post that trafficking in children for sexual purposes is booming,
>
> because of the lack of law enforcement and the culture of impunity.
>
> LICADHO and ADHOC said that there were people in the police, judiciary and
>
> military making substantial profits from the trade, which is regularly
> supplied with children from financially desperate parents.
>
> As an example, a brothel visited by the Post offered virgin girls for $600
>
> for a week's use. The owner assured the Post that full discretion was
> assured and that there would be no problem with the authorities because
> the
> owner's father was the district police chief.
>
> Dr Kek Galabru, the President of LICADHO, said that though safeguards for
> children were built into Cambodia's constitution, in practice, abused
> children were being ignored by the legal system and stigmatized by
> society.
>
> She said some very important first steps have already been taken by the
> Government, but they cannot be carried forward in the absence of the
> authorities refusal to recognize a child's right to protection under the
> law.
>
> She said the authorities are still giving protection to traffickers and
> that brothels were often owned by Government officials.
>
> "We know of cases of human trafficking in which NGOs have provided
> information to the authorities in order to take action against the
> traffickers, but the authorities ignored the cases," said Galabru.
>
> A police official from the Ministry of Interior acknowledged that the
> trafficking in children for sexual purposes is a serious problem and said
> little was being done to stop it.
>
> "No specific department in the Ministry of Interior is working on the
> issue
> of human trafficking, and it's terrible situation," said the official.
>
> He said that the National Police Director, Hok Lundy, planned to establish
>
> a new department against sexual exploitation of children.
>
> The new department will be created by next month and once it is
> operational
> they will try and gauge the size of the problem.
>
> "Now, the police in each commune or district are responsible for fighting
> against traffickers by themselves, therefore the Ministry of Interior has
> no statistics about the situation," said the official.
>
> Lim Mony, the Head of the Women Section of ADHOC, said part of the problem
>
> was the attitude of Cambodian parents to the physical wellbeing of their
> children. She said that in Cambodian culture, people do not regard
> violence
> as necessarily a bad thing, and often punish children by beating them. She
>
> said violence was often linked to the stresses brought on by poverty,
> debt,
> lack of family support, marital breakup and unemployment.
>
> She said around half the number of children involved in child prostitution
>
> were sold by family members, others were provided by brokers.
>
> There has, she said, been a noticeable drop, albeit anecdotal, in the
> starting age of prostitutes, with pre-teen sex workers becoming more
> common.
>
> However the lack of research meant little is known about the extent of the
>
> problem and often what little research has been done is contradictory. An
> ADHOC investigation yielded 87 reported cases of trafficking in nine
> provinces in 1999. But at the same time other NGOs put the number of child
>
> prostitutes at more than 2,000 nationwide.
>
> Sun Vanna, chief of the bureau for prevention of trafficking from the
> Ministry of Women and Veteran's Affairs, said the exact number of sexually
>
> exploited children is hard to discover due to the clandestine nature of
> the
> industry.
>
> Vanna said there were no updated, accurate statistics on the number of
> women and children who are trafficked, from where, and to what
> destinations.
>
> She quoted studies by the Human Rights Commission in 1996-1997 which
> estimated nearly 15,000 women were involved in the sex industry - 81 per
> cent Khmer, 18 per cent Vietnamese and one per cent from other countries.
>
> A survey by the UNDP in 1994 of five provinces had a total of 13,000
> female
> sex workers, of which 7,000 were Vietnamese. But little was known about
> the
> age of the women.
>
> The only conclusion Vanna said she could make from the information
> available was that the problem was getting worse.
>
> "I found that the situation of human trafficking has been increasing from
> year to year since 1993," she said.
>
> Mony said that not only was trafficking in Cambodian children for sexual
> purposes getting worse locally, it had now become an international
> business, with children being sent to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and
> Taiwan.
>
> According to LICADHO and ADHOC, the sexual exploitation of children
> recognizes no borders. Although the problem is widely discussed
> internationally, especially around the tourist trade, more information and
>
> monitoring is needed, as is increased co-operation between national police
>
> and border officials.
>
> Meanwhile there is still a steady source of children, with parents either
> selling their children through desperation or often because they were
> duped
> into believing the children were going to work as maids or be adopted.
>
> Galabru said the current price of a child was US$100-to-$200 in rural
> areas
> and $500-to-$700 in Phnom Penh.
>
> Mony and Dr Galabru said the results of a childhood spent in the sex trade
>
> were profound. Those who survive the physical injuries and manage to avoid
>
> diseases such as HIV are left social and emotional cripples.
>
> Mony said the problem was nationwide, though large population centers such
>
> as Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville or border areas have the greatest number
> of
> child sex workers.
>
> Mony and Galabru said the issue of child prostitution is complex: lack of
> education and job opportunities, family breakup, and the regional economic
>
> crisis all have an impact. The threat of HIV/AIDS makes virgins attractive
>
> prey, hence increasing the demand for young sex workers. But the single
> biggest problem was a lack of will to stop the trade.
>
> "Weak law enforcement gives leeway for brothel owners and those trading in
>
> human beings," said Galabru.
>
> [For more news from the current Post, visit www.phnompenhpost.com]
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