Child safety specialists and law enforcement officials have announced that legal action will be taken against those who shared recently debunked reports of child abductions, noting that the wide spread of false information had caused undue fear and distress to many parents and guardians.

Anti-Cyber Crime Department director Sok Nithya told The Post that the department had investigated the claims and found no evidence of the crimes that were alleged. He called on anyone who witnesses any such crime to contact the authorities immediately, rather than taking to social media.

He said the unit were hunting for the people that had spread the misinformation.

“I appeal to people to consider the source of anything they see on social media, and try to verify it before sharing it,” he added.

“If children are abducted or missing, please contact your local authorities. Please don’t contact phone numbers you find on social media as you can’t be certain the numbers are accurate,” he concluded.

The department posted on May 21 that it had appealed to social media users to stop sharing fake reports of child abductions, noting that the source of the posts appeared to be anti-government groups who were bent on triggering societal insecurity.

“We sent officers to investigate the reports as soon as we heard them, and were able to determine that they were fake. At present we are working to identify the precise source of the posts,” it added.

The Press and Quick Reaction Units of the provincial police in Kandal, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang also refuted the claims of kidnapping, which were alleged to have taken place in their jurisdictions.

“Having conducted a careful investigation in Kandal province, we regard the reporting as totally untrue and are concerned it may pollute the social media atmosphere,” said the Kandal police press unit.

Nhep Sopheap, secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and former secretary-general of the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC), said the authorities had always been swift to respond to crimes against children, and would never ignore any calls for assistance, but were wary of time wasters.

She believed the people who spread the false claims would be brought to justice.

The Banteay Meanchey police issued a May 22 press release which denied that a girl had been kidnapped in Poipet, after ascertaining that the Battambang police had already addressed the allegation.

The Phnom Penh police detained a Chinese woman who reported her son missing at Central Market on May 22.

“Following questioning, we determined that she had lost her son on April 20, and he had been in the care of the Mith Samlanh NGO. We were able to contact extended family members in China, who explained that the women has been suffering from mental illness and become forgetful,” said the Phnom Penh quick reaction force.

“Following the questioning, we contacted the Chinese embassy and have arranged for the General Department of Immigration to return them both to China,” it concluded.