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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ECPAT answers questions of members and mandate

ECPAT answers questions of members and mandate

E CPAT wishes to make a brief press statement to give information on its status and

mandate.

Comments which can be given at this time concern general issues only, rather than

particular points concerning the situation of Gavin Scott, since we consider that

this matter is subjudice until after the trial. A fuller statement in this regard

will be made after the verdict of the court is announced.

Firstly, we wish to clarify who or what is ECPAT, and what mandate ECPAT has to monitor

cases of child sexual abuse and pass on information to the authorities. The acronym

'ECPAT' stands for 'End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism', a campaign which was

established in 1991 to raise awareness and promote action against 'sex tourists'

who were sexually abusing children abroad, particularly in developing countries.

Since 1991 the campaign has broadened beyond tourism and beyond Asia as it became

apparent that this was a worldwide phenomenon which also involved abuse by people

working abroad, and local adults within their own countries. There are currently

over 250 groups and organizations in the coalitions which form the ECPAT network,

in over 25 countries worldwide, co-ordinated through an international office based

in Bangkok.

In many countries ECPAT committees both campaign to raise awareness of child sexual

abuse, and work with local authorities to encourage arrests and convictions of child

sexual abusers, and protect the rights of abused children. This is the case, for

example, in Thailand, Philippines and Sri Lanka, where ECPAT groups have made links

with sympathetic police and lawyers and pass on detailed and carefully documented

information concerning abusers to the authorities. Another of the main aims of the

initial ECPAT campaign was to change the law in tourist-sending countries to allow

prosecution of sex tourists when they return home, and local groups have succeeded

in this regard in a number of countries (e.g. USA, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium,

Germany, and France). The emphasis of ECPAT's campaign is to stop child sexual abuses

regardless of the sex, nationality or sexual orientation of the abuser and the child.

In Cambodia the local ECPAT committee works in the same way as elsewhere, gathering

information and raising awareness about child sexual abuse by foreigners or locals,

homosexual or heterosexual. The Cambodian committee was formed in January 1995, and

consists of the following organizations: Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's

Rights, Cambodian Women's Development Association, Human Rights Task Force, ICM,

JVC, Krousar Thmey, LICADHO, Little Friends, PAKED, Redd Barna, Save the Children

Fund (UK), SKIP, Vigilance, World Vision, YWAM.

In recognition of the recent broader mandate of ECPAT internationally, and the particular

manifestations of child sexual exploitation in Cambodia, it was decided that ECPAT

in Cambodia should stand for 'End child Prostitution and Trafficking'.

In February 1995, the committee decided to follow the example of ECPAT groups in

Thailand, Philippines and Sri Lanka in collating information on adults involved in

abuse of children and passing it to the authorities for their attention. Detailed

information was carefully complied over a four month period before any information

was relayed to the authorities. However similar work was already being done by some

organizations who are members of ECPAT. For example, LICADHO has been investigating

cases of sexual abuse of children since 1993, and Krousar Thmey, Vigilance and others

have also been involved in work on these issues. The vast majority of these cases

involved abuse of young girls by adult Khmer men, but they received much less attention

in the press.

In our view the mandate of ECPAT Cambodia and individual NGOs has not been exceeded

in any of the recent cases brought to the attention of the authorities. ECPAT has

a clear mandate to raise awareness and document and pass on information on child

sexual exploitation and abuse committed by foreigners or locals. Furthermore, NGOs

involved in child care clearly have a responsibility to protect children against

abuse, and bring abuses to the attention of the authorities. This is also the case

for human rights organizations, whose work involves investigating and reporting human

rights organizations, whose work involves investigating and reporting human rights

abuses including children's right. If we did not report such abuses, we would be

guilty of colluding with the abusers.

We wish to emphasize that ECPAT has not been involved in questioning witnesses in

criminal investigations, which is clearly matter for the police, prosecutor and investigating

judge. All that we have done is to pass on to the authorities carefully documented

dossiers of information received from children who alleged that they had been abused,

together with names of witnesses and other evidence given to us. It is then up to

the authorities to decide how to proceed. So far in every case, the police and judges

have conducted their own interviews and investigations after being given the initial

information, in accordance with their normal procedures. All subsequent investigations,

interviews, and decisions as to bail are the prerogative of the court alone. Allegations

concerning collusion between ECPAT or NGO staff and judges are both untrue and defamatory.

ECPAT will continue to take action to protect children. Indeed ECPAT-linked organizations

have continued to monitor and document cases, and in particular were involved in

close collaboration with the police in Battambang in rescuing 40 girls under 18 who

had been forced into prostitution, and ensuring that those responsible were brought

to justice and the victims were given assistance. This was a good example of what

can be achieved in co-operation with the Cambodia authorities. ECPAT Cambodia is

also currently involved in raising awareness of child prostitution and trafficking

of laws and implementation procedures concerning protection of children from sexual

exploitation, which a view to lobbying the Cambodian government to strengthen the

laws to protect children. Cambodian children have a right to expect the same degree

of protection as children elsewhere in the world.

Children are the future of Cambodia - let's protect the children.

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