Cambodia saw a 12 percent decrease in serious crimes against children in 2017, including a marked drop in the number of recorded rapes, according to figures from the Child Protection Unit.
The number of rapes against children dropped from 205 to 147 last year, though there was a slight uptick in the number of homicides, from 21 to 24.
There were 222 cases of major crimes investigated by the NGO across the country involving 232 victims aged 13 and under, as well as homicide victims aged 15 and younger, CPU director James McCabe said. In 2016, the CPU investigated 253 cases against victims 13 and under.
One concern from 2017’s cases was the “disproportionate” number of babies killed by their mother or father, he said, noting that such cases have been very rare in the past, but there were six last year.
“The death of any child is tragic, but when [the perpetrator is] a family member, it’s compounded,” he said.
“The arrest rate is running at 83 percent – that’s something to be applauded. Western countries would be envious of such an arrest rate,” he added.
McCabe put 2017’s successes down to the hard work of the National Police and the CPU’s policing partners, adding that there was an increased “willingness to report crimes against children, with the community knowing that if they report it to the police that something will be done about it”.
“It’s been made very clear civil settlements aren’t to be accepted,” he said, adding that informal financial compensation did not preclude prosecution.
Ros Chivy, deputy provincial police chief in Battambang, which again recorded the highest number of serious crimes committed against children, said raising awareness was key to preventing vulnerable children from being attacked. She added that parents migrating to work in Thailand could leave children open to abuse, which too often came from step-fathers, uncles or even grandfathers.
“We educate the public not to allow young girls to herd cows or leave them alone” – with an older man, even a relative, because that could – “allow the perpetrator to have opportunity to commit crimes easily,” she said.
McCabe also thanked the Kantha Bopha hospital staff for treating children who sustained serious injuries after they were attacked.
“Without the assistance of the hospital … a significant number of the most brutalised children wouldn’t have made it,” he said.