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Internet child-porn alert

Internet child-porn alert

Over the past five years the internet has become the main method for pedophiles to

exchange child pornography, a Phnom Penh seminar was told March 12. Local and international

NGOs have expressed growing concern that Cambodia's weak laws and judiciary combined

with widespread poverty have made the country a magnet for pedophiles.

Nigel Williams, chief executive of Childnet International, addressed a group of NGO

workers, government officials and police on the opportunities and dangers posed to

Cambodian children by the internet.

"The internet is like a city," he said. "We want them to enjoy the

city, but we don't want them to go into the bad areas".

Childnet International, a UK NGO, has since 1995 been working solely on making the

internet safe for children. The NGO rewards positive websites, but warns that children

are "just three clicks away" from sexual predators.

Williams told the meeting that children faced two major threats from the internet:

exploitation of children for pornographic material, and the use of internet "chatrooms"

to recruit children for sex.

Chatrooms and mobile-phone text-messaging have become recruiting grounds for pedophiles

in the UK. Over the past year at least a dozen children have been lured into sexual

abuse by pedophiles gaining the children's trust before enticing them into a meeting,

Williams said.

Childnet was "open to approaches" from government or other agencies to

address the problem in Cambodia before similar problems arose here. He added that

the problem could be addressed in a variety of ways including establishing hotlines,

industry codes, educating children and law enforcement.

"Governments can introduce legislation outlawing 'sexual grooming'," he

said. Childnet publishes the "Chatdanger .com" website to explain how children

can use chatrooms safely.

Since no-one could track the many thousands of pornographic images exchanged on the

internet, it was impossible to say how many photographs of Cambodian children circulated

among pedophiles worldwide, Williams said.

"A child could be abused in Cambodia today, their picture taken and then viewed

in America this afternoon," he said. "Very little if any child pornography

is hosted [placed on an internet server] in Cambodia but in terms of pictures of

Cambodian children we are certain that there are some pictures of children from this

country on the internet," said Williams.

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