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Surge seen in crimes against children

Members of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) participate in a police training session in Phnom Penh earlier this year. In the first half of 2015 the CPU recorded 122 cases of crimes against children.
Members of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) participate in a police training session in Phnom Penh earlier this year. In the first half of 2015 the CPU recorded 122 cases of crimes against children. Vireak Mai

Surge seen in crimes against children

The Child Protection Unit (CPU) has seen a surge in cases of serious crimes against children in recent weeks, though the NGO says that partly reflects their expanded presence in Cambodia and improved reporting practices.

Forty-four rapes of children as young as four years old were reported between July 1 and August 10 – an average of more than one per day.

During that period, the CPU also dealt with the kidnapping of a three-day-old baby and a serious assault against a 15-month-old toddler.

“It’s been a horrendous month and a half,” said CPU director of operations James McCabe, who said suspects have been identified in all of the cases, with 35 arrests already made.
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That wave of incidents followed 122 cases during the first six months of 2015, marking a 10 per cent rise on the 111 cases dealt with during the same period last year.

With two historic cases also reopened this year, the CPU has now dealt with 175 cases in little over seven months, compared to 221 during the whole of 2014.

According to McCabe, the increase can partly be attributed to the expansion of the CPU’s presence this year from 17 to 20 of the country’s 25 provinces.

It can also be put down to a growing understanding about the organisation’s work among low-ranking police and the public, in part thanks to training programs targeting officials all the way down to the provincial police level, he said.

“People now know that if they come forward and they report it, things will get done,” he added. “In the provinces we’re working in, we’re very widely known."

However, the rise also appears to corroborate an overall increase in rapes noted by rights group Adhoc in a report released last week.

Among 131 cases dealt with by the NGO in the first half of this year, 100 were committed against minors, with 37 against girls under 10 years old.

That total marked a 65 per cent rise on the 80 cases registered by the organisation during the same period in 2014.

Of those incidents, just 47 were reported to have entered the court system.

While legal proceedings on others were still pending, some cases were resolved with compensation payments.

The CPU has worked hard alongside authorities to prevent child rapists escaping jail time by making compensation payments, McCabe said.

None of the cases the CPU deals with are left resolved in such a way, with the NGO pursuing prosecutions itself when necessary and boasting an arrest rate hovering around 80 per cent.

“It is not acceptable in this day and age to civilly settle the rape of a child,” he said.

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