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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gaps persist in laws protecting kids: UN

A speaker presents the legal report on sexual exploitation of children on Monday in Phnom Penh.
A speaker presents the legal report on sexual exploitation of children on Monday in Phnom Penh. Kong Meta

Gaps persist in laws protecting kids: UN

A draft United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released at a workshop on Monday praises efforts to crack down on sexual abuse of children but calls for measures to curb child pornography.

According to the report, the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation addresses the sale and prostitution of children, and the sale of child pornography, but does not criminalise possession.

It describes the government’s current consideration of a draft cybercrime law as imperative in addressing child pornography online, but the report says that the government must create another law prohibiting the possession of child pornography in hard-copy form.

At Monday’s workshop, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana underscored the difficulties of confronting child sexual exploitation on the internet. “Now the ministry is drafting the cybercrime law, a very difficult task,” he said. “This issue, it is getting more developed and [we] don’t know how much we could [do to] combat [it].”

The report adds that Cambodia should criminalise “grooming”, or the process by which predators befriend children. No Cambodian legislation currently targets such behaviour.

The UNODC report also addresses criminal justice procedures, saying that child victims and witnesses should benefit from similar standards outlined in Cambodia’s 2016 Law on Juvenile Justice.

That law forbids the broadcast or diffusion of images and information by authorities that could reveal a minor’s identity, ensures the presence of a support person for the child throughout the criminal justice process, and allows children to give evidence from behind a screen.

Responding to the report’s analyses and recommendations, James McCabe of the Child Protection Unit said Cambodia has “seen a steady increase in arrest and prosecutions over the past four years of persons committing serious crimes against children”.

He attributed this to a criminal code that adequately targets child sex tourists for investigation and prosecution and a judicial system that demonstrates openness to new methodologies.

However, McCabe foresaw difficulties in the crafting of anti-grooming laws, a practice lacking a clear definition. Countries like Australia might offer some guidance, he said, having enacted laws preventing sex offenders from loitering near schools and other areas associated with children.

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