World Vision Cambodia national director Jason Evans (L) and Hor Sarun, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, sign a memorandum of understanding yesterday in an effort to help combat the sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia’s tourism sector. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Far-flung villages and towns peppered across Cambodia’s rural provinces must be far better equipped to deal with child sex tourism, according to humanitarian organisation World Vision.
The Ministry of Tourism and World Vision Cambodia yesterday morning signed a memorandum of understanding, a tangible symbol, they said, of their partnership to combat the sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia’s blooming tourism sector.
Almost 50 deputy municipal-provincial governors and municipal-provincial chiefs of department from Cambodia’s 24 provinces joined World Vision staff and Ministry of Tourism officials at the Child Safe Tourism Committee workshop yesterday.
World Vision regional program manager Aarti Kapoor told the Post that sex exploitation was endemic in the country’s peripheries.
“Part of our campaign will be to enlist child safety committee members from each province in the country, to spread the message, and also to be vigilant about where there are vulnerabilities, if locals in these areas know where there may be an orphanage or a brothel, they need to monitor it,” she said.
She highlighted that vulnerable children in unregulated orphanages can be victims of sex tourism.
Hor Sarun, chairman of the Child Safe Tourism Committee, said this program was a first of its kind because of the scale of training and education it provided to “the far-reaching places”.
He said Cambodia had seen an influx of two million tourists in 2011 and witnessed almost 100 cases of sexual harassment to children by foreigners.
He said that most of the children suffering from sexual abuse by foreigners are children – both boys and girls – selling souvenirs at the beach and resorts.
Speaking to the Post after the workshop, Eric Meldrum, operations director for anti-human trafficking and exploitation group SISHA, said that while foreign sex tourists remained a problem in Cambodia, of greater concern was the flood of Khmer men having sex with children, particularly virgins.
“I appreciate Cambodia does have that image as a place where foreign pedophiles come, but they need to be targeting the massive amount of Khmer offenders,” he said.