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US to help fight child sex trafficking

A SENIOR US law enforcement official has pledged Monday to boost supports aimed at curbing child sex tourism and incidents of human trafficking among American tourists in the Kingdom.

John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his department has signed a “letter of intent” with the Cambodian National Police pledging to continue efforts to combat child sex tourism and trafficking.

“We in the United States are committed to making sure our citizens don’t come here and commit crimes against Cambodian children,” Morton said at a press conference.

“We are intent on deterring that kind of behaviour, on investigating those that do come here and prosecuting and sending them to jail.”

US law allows for sentences of 30 years in prison for citizens convicted of predatory crimes against children outside the United States.

So far, 14 alleged child sex tourists have been returned to the US to face prosecution, Morton said.

That includes three US nationals sent home last year after being arrested by Cambodian authorities on child sexual exploitation charges as part of “Twisted Traveller”, the US operation aimed at prosecuting accused American sex tourists who travel to Cambodia.

Last month, Michael James Dodd was returned to the US to face prosecution after he was sentenced in Cambodia to 13 years in prison on charges of buying sex from underage girls.

“Sadly, I don’t think that will be the end of it,” Morton said. “There are plenty of Americans continuing to come here.”

Morton said the ongoing arrangement between his department and Cambodian police will continue to honour pledges of training, joint
investigations and implement a “long-term strategic plan to deal with these kinds of crimes”.

Roughly 2 million children are caught in the international sex trade, according to the NGO World Vision. US citizens, in turn, make up an estimated 25 percent of child sex tourists globally, according to the group.

In Cambodia, research suggests that while Western child sex tourists are prevalent, the majority of offenders do not come from the West. A 2006 study from the group Child Wise found that “local and Inter-Asian child sex offenders” are the most prevalent abusers in the Kingdom.

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