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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pedophile arrests lift lid on child-pornography shock

Pedophile arrests lift lid on child-pornography shock

Pedophile arrests lift lid on child-pornography shock

pedophile.jpg
pedophile.jpg

Karl Heinz Henning leaped from his top-floor apartment in an apparent suicide attempt when police burst in, impaling himself on the fence below.

S o far in 2006, Cambodia has witnessed a string of highprofile arrests of foreign pedophiles operating inside Cambodia.

The piles of evidence found at the suspects' residence - computer hard drives, video libraries, stockpiles of photographs - are confiscated by law enforcement agencies and used in their investigations.

An emerging Asia-wide trend has appeared in Cambodia, making it hard to ignore the wider implications of these sinister caches of damning, often extremely disturbing, evidence.

"Ninety percent of those arrested across the region for pedophilia are also making child pornography," said Chin Chanveasna, executive director, End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia (Ecpat-Cambodia). "In Cambodia our arrest statistics indicate that around ninety percent of child-sex abusers always record their activities."

This alarming new trend has taken hold in Cambodia, said Beatrice Magnier, director of Anti-pedophile NGO Action pour les Enfants (APLE). "The production of child pornography is a new phenomenon in Cambodia," she said. "It is certainly happening."

It is also widespread, said a representative of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression. The representative declined to be named for security reasons.

"Every pedophile we have arrested in Cambodia has in some form, whether digital video recording or still shots, documented their abuse," the representative said. "That is their modus operandi."

Two recent cases, that of Terry Darrell Smith, a 54-year-old US citizen charged with debauchery in Sihanoukville in August this year, and German national Karl Heinz Henning, 61, arrested on August 20 in Phnom Penh, provide examples of this new trend.

At Henning's house police seized vast amounts of sadomasochistic child pornography - primarily images and footage of Henning and other older Western men having sex with very young children.

"In the Henning case in Phnom Penh more than 1,500 images were initially found on his computer," the IJM representative said. "In the Smith case he had 8mm video footage of him committing sexual acts against children."

NGO representatives are debating how the footage is being used: for personal reasons or for profit.

"We don't know if they are recording for private use or to sell on the internet," Chanveasna said. "There needs to be more research into how many of the victims' images have been sold for profit; we need to look into the percentage of pedophiles who just make and possess this porn as opposed to the number who sell it for profit."

It is the sheer volume of illegal child pornography accumulated by some foreign pedophiles in Cambodia, for example Heinz Henning, that has sparked concern among people battling child-sex exploitation.

"There was so much footage, so many images of the abuse," Chanveasna said. "We don't know what he was using it for, whether he is just passing it among his friends or selling it - it seems too much just for personal consumption."

Finding this kind of material is unsurprising, as most pedophiles have a tendency to meticulously document their sexual crimes against children, the IJM representative said.

"Some have written logs - names, ages, score, acts committed against them," the representative said. "Also common are digital libraries documenting abuse, every one we have arrested has had that - there is something in the mentality."

Selling the visual records of this sexual abuse as child pornography can be a lucrative business, Chanveasna said.

"They can make a big profit from selling child pornography," he said. "In other countries there are pedophiles who will buy this kind of material so we suspect that perpetrators try and sell it across the internet."

Concerned by this evidence that the production of child pornography by foreign pedophiles is increasing in Cambodia, the government is taking action.

"The Ministry of Women's affairs is very aware of this issue," said Sy Define, Undersecretary of State in charge of information at the Ministry of Women's Affairs. "Pornography of all kinds damages society and we are working together with the Ministries of Interior and of Justice to crack down on it."

There is no doubt that the spread of affordable digital video recording equipment has contributed substantially to this new trend, the IJM's representative said.

"[The production of child pornography] has noticeably increased since it has got easier to obtain high-quality digital video equipment," the representative said. "It has been going on for a long time but in the last two or three years it has become more and more pervasive because of the advance of modern technology."

This is a particular problem in countries like Cambodia where the local population may be less familiar with modern technology than visitors from developed countries.

"Cambodia is new to this technology; only some of the younger generation can use it," Cheanvesna said. "Foreign pedophiles are often experts and have very high-quality equipment and are used to web-casts and posting pictures. So they can abuse children and then immediately upload images of the abuse."

The government is well aware that modern technology can have negative effects on Cambodian society, Define said.

"If you allow modern technology into a country in an unregulated fashion it can adversely impact society," she said. "Technology has advantages, yes, but the disadvantages can be greater than the advantages for countries where the population has limited education."

The problems posed by modern technology are universal, said Emmanuelle Colineau, general secretary for Afesip International.

"The problem is not unique to Cambodia," he said. "Yes, here there is more impunity; but regarding technology, the problems are the same elsewhere."

In the face of new threats posed by modern technology, gaps in Cambodia's current legal framework are being exposed anew.

"In Cambodia there is nothing in the law to protect children specifically," Colineau said. "This is the real problem - lack of clear legal guidance to protect these children."

A stronger legal framework that specifically criminalizes the production of child pornography should be put into place, said ECPAT's Chanveasna.

"Currently there are no specific laws on child pornography, but child sex abuse and the production of child pornography should be two crimes," he said. "One crime to commit the abuse itself, another crime to produce child pornography."

Child pornography is a serious crime with long-term ramifications for the victim, he said. The damage may last far longer than the physical and psychological trauma inflicted during the actual sexual abuse.

"The physical abuse of children can be recovered in the short run; you can take the child away from it, place them in a shelter," Chanveasna said. "But if a photograph or video has been posted and sold on the internet you cannot remove it and get back every copy distributed - and that can have a very long term effect on the victim."

Making a profit, or even making a video, is at the moment only a secondary factor in motivating foreign pedophiles to come to countries like Cambodia, he said.

"Foreign pedophiles primarily come to Cambodia to abuse children," Chanveasna said. "They just use the opportunity to make child pornography too."

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