The International Justice Mission (IJM) yesterday lauded Cambodia’s progress in tackling the child sex trade but stressed more needed to be done, including authorising police to use undercover investigation techniques.
Launching the IJM’s recent study on the child sex trade, which suggested the prevalence of underage sex workers in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville has fallen 73 per cent between 2012 and 2015, IJM field office director Christa Sharpe proposed a raft of improvements to improve counter-trafficking efforts.
Among the recommendations – which included increased funding for officers and social workers – was addressing legislation that prohibits using audio and video recordings of private conversations as evidence in court.
Although used by officers in the past, a 2010 revision of the penal code criminalised recording people without their consent.
Police still use undercover techniques such as surveillance, but Sharpe said there was confusion surrounding the admissibility of recordings in court.
Although a conference held in 2013 sought to address the issue, and the Interior Ministry last year prepared guidelines for its officers to use the techniques, the Ministry of Justice has so far failed to propose a way forward.
Given that increased pressure is driving child prostitution further underground, Sharpe said it was vital that police investigating trafficking could use more sophisticated techniques, which also reduce the need for victims to testify in court.
“After two years of research and deliberations, IJM urges the Ministry of Justice to find a solution for anti-trafficking police and prosecutors quickly so they can respond to real needs and real case of victims who are crying out for help and need the justice system to solve this problem,” she said, suggesting the Ministry of Justice set up a technical working group.
Ith Rady, an undersecretary of state at ministry, addressed members of the government and civil society at the same Phnom Penh event, saying more time was needed to study the impact of such a move.