Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Program to warn off pedophiles

Program to warn off pedophiles

Program to warn off pedophiles

World Vision, an international NGO, has launched a program to improve awareness

among Ministry of Tourism officials and workers in the private sector about

tourists who come here for underage sex.

Cambodia has rapidly gained a

reputation as a place where underage sex is cheaply available and punishment

easily avoided.

"We want them to understand the potential negative impact

on tourism, not just the positive," said Sary Mony, program manager at

WorldVision. He said those who had finished the course would help train

others.

The Child Safe Tourism program is a result of a recommendation

contained in a WorldVision survey released in 2000. That report was the first

into underage sex tourism in Cambodia.

The MoT signed an agreement with

WorldVision to put together the program. The first two day training course was

held early April in Phnom Penh; the next will be at the end of the month in Siem

Reap, the country's most popular destination.

WorldVision's Mony said his

team would train tourism officials, hotel and guest-house owners, and tour

operators about the problem. They would also learn about the laws relating to

underage sexual exploitation. However, the loopholes in Cambodian law and

widespread judicial corruption mean that offenders escape charges relatively

easily.

"Everyone knows there is corruption in Cambodia's courts," said

Mony. "And no matter how many laws we pass, the important thing is to put them

into practice. If we don't make the law effective, it will be useless, even if

the National Assembly passes thousands of them."

"We will also produce

posters and stick them at all international border entry points into Cambodia,"

said Mony, "so the tourists will know that child sex here is a

crime."

Prosecutions are under way against several foreigners accused of

sex offenses against children. Frenchman Pierre Guynot, whose Sihanoukville

trial last November was postponed for further investigation, was accused of

using the interim period to try to buy the silence of his accusers.

Chum

Sophea, a lawyer for several boys in Sihanoukville, said Guynot had tried to pay

four boys $600 each to withdraw their testimony. The prosecuting judge, Tak Kim

Sea, told the Post recently that four alleged victims had withdrawn their

complaints against Guynot, 45, the owner of Obey Karting. He was arrested in

May, 2001 for illegal possession of weapons, illegal confinement of a boy, and

child pornography.

The only foreigner currently serving time for a child

sex offense is Briton John Keeler, who was convicted of debauchery in November,

2000 and sentenced for three years. He was arrested in August, 2000 for taking

indecent video footage of four girls, aged between 8 and 10, in a park in

Takmau. Media reports indicate that Keeler might receive a royal amnesty during

Khmer New Year for good behavior.

Two other foreigners accused of child

sex offenses are also awaiting trial. Alain Berruti had his hearing postponed

April 5 after rejecting the female lawyer provided by the court. A police

official said Berruti was arrested in June last year on the charge of paying

minors for sex.

Italian Luigi Falchi is awaiting the services of an

Italian speaking lawyer to defend him. He is in custody in Banteay Meanchey

province in the north-west.

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