Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child-abuse increase feared in Australian policy change

Child-abuse increase feared in Australian policy change

Child-abuse increase feared in Australian policy change

CAMBODIAN children face an increased risk of abuse by Australian pedophiles due to

the cancellation of a specialized Australian police operation, according to an Australian

child protection organization.

The Australian office of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) says the

decision in October of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to disband Operation Morocco,

which investigated Australians suspected of committing child-sex crimes abroad, would

result in increasing numbers of Cambodian children being victimized by Australian

pedophiles each year.

"There are many Australian pedophiles who travel to Cambodia to take advantage

of the poverty and vulnerability of the children ... [and] Cambodia is high on the

list of destinations for Australian child sex tourists," said Bernadette McMenamin,

National Director of ECPAT Australia.

"Without a dedicated policing squad who monitors these offenders, I'm afraid

more and more Cambodian children will be victims of Australian pedophiles."

Operation Morocco investigators were instrumental in the 1996 arrest and prosecution

of John Holloway, former Australian Special Envoy to Cambodia. Holloway was later

acquitted due to questions about the reliability of evidence of two Cambodian child

witnesses.

Australian Embassy officials in Phnom Penh denied suggestions that the disbanding

of Operation Morocco was a reversal of Australia's commitment to combating child

sex tourism.

"The Australian government is still committed to stopping child-sex tourism,"

Australian Ambassador Louise Hand told the Post.

Hand speculated that the disbanding of Operation Morocco was a matter of a "reallocation

of funding" within the AFP rather than a funding cut.

"The Australian government shall continue to combat child sex tourism,"

Hand said, adding that Australia is "one of the few countries in the world"

to enact an extraterritoriality law that allows the prosecution of Australians suspected

of committing child-sex offenses abroad.

Reaction to the news of the disbanding of Operation Morocco in Cambodia was mixed.

The Minister of Women's and Veteran's Affairs, Mu Sochua, expressed concern that

the program's cessation would harm efforts to control the trafficking of women and

children in the region.

"I'm very disappointed that the government of Australia, which I perceive as

very supportive of the rights of women and children, has done this," Sochua

said. "For Cambodia, it's very disappointing in the context of Australia play[ing]

a powerful role in assisting governments, civil society and NGOs in combating the

trafficking of women and children. By pulling out [of Operation Morocco], it hurts

the whole region."

Yim Po, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's

Rights (CCPCR), said the relatively minor role played by Australians in child-sex

crimes in Cambodia lessened the impact of the cancellation of the Australian initiative.

"There are not an excessive number of child sex crimes committed by Australians

in Cambodia," Po said. "Australians are around number four on the list

of foreign child-sex offenders, behind the Chinese, Japanese, British and Germans."

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro