A 21-year-old-man suspected of grooming a minor through the internet to have sex will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday to face charges of “having sex with a minor under 15-years-old”, Child Protection Unit (CPU) operations director James McCabe said.
The arrest was the first made by Strike Force Juno – a joint task force comprising of Cambodian National Police, Royal Gendarmerie and CPU members to “investigate internet-based crimes against children”.
Speaking to The Post on Tuesday, McCabe said: “The male had groomed a 12-year-old girl from Phnom Penh after posing as a friend on Facebook. The offender had lured the child to a restaurant for lunch then took the child to Kampong Cham province.”
From Kampong Cham province, investigators followed a lead to Kampong Thom province where the victim and suspect were found around 6pm.
The strike force became aware of the case on September 23 after a report was filed to Phnom Penh police by the victim’s parents.
“Investigations and examination of social media pages used by the victim alerted Task Force members of the possibility of the child being a victim of internet-based crimes.
“Police checked after being alerted by parents reporting a missing child for eight days,” McCabe said.
The Ministry of Interior is currently preparing a draft law which would target cybercrimes, including the sexual exploitation of young children.
About 76 per cent of Cambodians have regular access to the internet and more than half the population is active on social media.
NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (Aple) said in its annual report that the organisation received 67 reports of child exploitation in 2018 – all but 12 of them were instances of online abuse.
National Committee for Counter-Trafficking vice-chairperson Chou Bun Eng warned earlier this month that children in the capital and Kampot, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces are most vulnerable.
“We notice that the use of information technology, especially social media, is becoming morea and more common and there are unscrupulous people who misuse it to commit crimes, including sexual exploitation of children.
“We urge service providers to monitor internet content to protect children from being lured by paedophiles,” she said at a workshop last month.
Kampong Thom provincial police station felony office head Chak Chanret could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.