The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications found about 400,000 cases of child sexual abuse online in Cambodia in 2021, more than double the number reported in 2020. It called on all public and private actors to work together to prevent them.

The report was presented at the June 28 launch of the “Promoting the Participation of Technology Companies in Online Child Protection” project. 150 representatives of ministries, technology companies, UNICEF and NGO were present at a June 28 workshop.

Director-general of Information and Communications Technology at the ministry Neang Mao said his team was exploring the possibility of integrating child protection policies into the operation processes of technology companies and content creators.

He said the project was implemented to respond to the growing dangers on the Internet to children and as part of Cambodia’s readiness to build a digital economy and society.

He said online child abuse increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has changed the lives and education of Cambodian children.

He said that recently, there has been an increase in pornographic trafficking activities on social media in Cambodia, just as there has been across the internet. He said that many large tech companies around the world are taking preventive measures, such as using virtual intelligence to scan and identify victims, perpetrators and locations, to end the practice.

“The involvement of the private sector, especially technology companies and guardians, is very important in curbing the spread of sexual abuse cases and protecting victims,” he said.

Ben Wildfire, UNICEF country representative in Cambodia, said that UNICEF conducted a study of online child abuse in four ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, in 2019.

He said that most of the children used social media for communication, entertainment and education, and that children of both sexes who used the internet were being sent pornography by strangers, or videos and other content related to sex abuse. He added that the risk increased during the Covid-19 as children spent time online learning.

“All stakeholders, whether from the private or public sectors or NGOs, must continue to work together to ensure that children benefit from safe use of the Internet. The government must also respond to these concerns,” said Wildfire.

Chun Vat, ministry secretary of state, said the project is an important one, and a new step in giving Cambodian children the opportunity to use the Internet safely.

He said the protection of children online is important for Cambodian society now and in the future, especially in the context of Covid-19, when so many students were force to spend more time online.

“The risk of cyber-bullying and sexual abuse is alarmingly high, so it requires immediate intervention, as well as more strategic long-term consideration,” he said.

Technology companies and social media influencers who participated in the workshop said they would use their platforms to share details of the risks and would create content that raised awareness of online child abuse.

Deputy secretary-general of the General Secretariat of the National Council for Children Sambath Sokunthea said that she was very pleased that the issue is being addressed by the relevant ministries and NGOs, and that the private sector is also involved.

“The government, especially the National Council for Children, have done a lot of work in regard to online sexual abuse. We have an inter-ministerial technical working group and other stakeholders working on this,” she said.