Child sex and prostitution too common in Asean

A big issue in a number of Asean countries is the flourishing trade in child sex and child prostitution. All Asean countries are signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but implementation lags behind intention.

Here are 2 news stories that illustrate the problem:

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Source: Shanghai Star
2 May 2002

Mecca for paedophiles
Child prostitution flourishes in Cambodia despite crackdown

BUYING sex with a 12-year-old girl in Cambodia takes less time and effort than changing money in a bank or paying a telephone bill.

For $1, a motorbike will take you on a 20-minute ride up the chaotic highway north of Phnom Penh, weaving through a riot of bicycles, dogs, trucks and tractors, to the village of Svay Pak.

In the rough dirt road that runs through the village, two girls in their early teens play badminton. Three younger girls chase a chicken around in circles. Some teenagers in garish tight polyester dresses saunter past, deep in conversation.

All of them are for sale.

Svay Pak is a brothel village, a cluster of brick and concrete shophouses where immigrant prostitutes from Viet Nam offer “boom-boom” – sex – and “yum-yum” – oral sex – for $5 a time in cramped, clammy rooms and makeshift plywood cubicles.

Similar brothel villages can be found all over Cambodia. Many prostitutes are trafficked from Viet Nam, but most are ethnic Khmers, the majority race in Cambodia.

Recent surveys have estimated more than a third are under 18.

“Many thousands of children are still being abused in Cambodia’s sex industry,” said Laurence Gray, regional co-ordinator for development agency World Vision’s programme for children at risk.

The physical and mental damage is severe.

World Vision works with some 300 sexually exploited children in Phnom Penh. Nearly 60 per cent are malnourished, 46 per cent have sexually transmitted diseases and 18 per cent have HIV.

The mental scars are less quantifiable but no less real.

HIV scourge

In Svay Pak dozens of women stand in the doorways of their brothels, waving and blowing kisses at customers arriving in the village. Others crowd around the foreign men drinking in Svay Pak’s ramshackle beer bars, sweating in the afternoon sun.

Most of the women are aged 16 to 20. But visitors who have come looking for even younger girls only have to wait.

Soon the whispering starts.

“You want a young girl? Very good for you,” says “Luc”, a 12-year-old Vietnamese boy pimping girls no older than he is. “Come with me and I’ll show you.”

In curtained-off alcoves in the brothels, customers can sit drinking chilled beer and choose from a selection of underage girls. Many of the Svay Pak brothels have some for sale.

Brothel managers, usually women, bring a selection of girls in their early teens, telling them to lift their skirts and T-shirts to show prospective clients their bodies.

The managers offer advice on each girl’s sexual experience and ability. Some customers like girls with a reputation for “good service”. Others are looking for virgins.

Sex with a girl aged 10 to 13 costs about $30. Younger girls cost more. A virgin costs a few hundred dollars.

Many of the foreign men who come to Svay Pak prefer younger girls, partly in the hope of avoiding disease.

“They’re clean,” Luc says. “They haven’t been with many men.”

But disease is everywhere. Up to half of Cambodia’s prostitutes are estimated to be infected with HIV.

Karaoke parlours

Things were supposed to have changed in Cambodia.

Last year Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a decree ordering the country’s karaoke parlours and discotheques to close, saying they were havens for prostitution and drug abuse. He vowed to send tanks to demolish bars that defied the ban.

Local authorities across the country were told to shut down brothels. The government said the crackdown would end the trafficking of women and the sexual exploitation of children.

Humanitarian groups working with prostitutes said the order would destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of women, but welcomed the prospect of a crackdown on child prostitution.

Explicit video

Cambodia’s child sex industry thrives amid the poverty that grips the country, the preference of many local and foreign men for underage girls, and the failure of the country’s law enforcement system to deal effectively with the problem.

Only one foreigner is in jail on a conviction for sexual abuse of children – Englishman John Keeler, arrested while making an explicit videotape with four girls aged eight to 10.

Other foreigners are usually cleared by the courts – after bribing officials, according to humanitarian agencies.

Gray says Cambodia’s government is committed to fighting child prostitution, but that translating good intentions into firm action against paedophiles is proving difficult.

“Unfortunately this is an issue that requires further attention,” he said. “The government makes policy positions that condemn this, but getting resources from within government to combat it is still a problem.”

(Agencies via Xinhua)

* * *

Source: the Guardian, UK
20 Oct 2007

Police arrest paedophile suspect in Thailand
· Canadian teacher faces 20 years if found guilty
· Interpol say he is man in ‘swirl’ images on internet

by Ian MacKinnon

A Canadian schoolteacher suspected of sexually abusing young boys across south-east Asia was seized by Thai police yesterday after an international manhunt.

Following a tip-off, Christopher Paul Neil, 32, allegedly seen in 200 images posted on websites abusing boys as young as six, was arrested at a house he rented with a Thai boyfriend in the north-eastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Thai police drove him the 150 miles to Bangkok and paraded him at a press conference. Officers said he would be charged with molesting underage boys, and faced 20 years’ imprisonment.

Interpol detectives said the nine-day operation would serve as a warning to paedophiles that the internet and public revulsion left no hiding place.

The international police agency revealed pictures, apparently of Mr Neil, after German computer specialists used new technology to unscramble them. The pictures had been digitally obscured with a swirl pattern in images showing the abuse of boys in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Within days, Interpol had received 350 calls and messages that established the suspect’s name, age, nationality, passport number, occupation as an English teacher, and details of employment.

On the day the pictures were released, Mr Neil abruptly left the school where he was teaching in South Korea. He arrived at Bangkok airport where Thai immigration authorities photographed him, with his head shaved and wearing glasses, setting off a nationwide search.

Police in Bangkok issued an arrest warrant for Mr Neil after a Thai teenager approached them claiming the teacher had abused him several years ago. Mr Neil lived in Thailand, where he was known as Vico, on several occasions between 2002 and 2004 when the alleged images of him abusing the boys were uploaded.

Interpol followed up with a “red notice” international wanted persons warrant, a precursor to extradition proceedings.

Mr Neil was tracked to the house of a 25-year-old Thai transvestite nicknamed Ohm in Nakhon Ratchasima after a trace was put on his mobile. He was arrested yesterday morning, but said nothing except to confirm his name and ask for a lawyer. “The suspect was quiet,” said Lieutenant General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, of the Thai police. “He wasn’t agitated. He didn’t say anything at all.”

Mr Neil acknowledged his name and nationality, but would not say whether he was the man pictured in more than 200 photographs having sex with boys as young as six in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, according to police.

He was led through a scrum of media into Bangkok’s police headquarters where he sat quietly beside Thai officers, who said he could be held for 48 hours before they charged him or sought an extension from a judge.

Thailand’s deputy national police chief, General Wongkot Maneerin, said Mr Neil could be charged with sexually molesting young boys. If convicted he faces 20 years in jail over accusations he paid two Thai boys aged nine and 14 for oral sex.

It later transpired that Mr Neil had been employed by the Canadian military to counsel teenagers on moral issues.

Officials with the Canadian department of National Defence confirmed that Mr Neil had been hired by the Canadian military in the summer of 1997 as a civilian chaplain at HMCS Fort Qu’Appelle, a sea cadet training camp at Fort San.

Lieutenant Carole Brown told the Saskatchewan News Network that Mr Neil was employed at HMCS Acadia at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, during the summers of 1998 and 1999, as well as at the CFB Greenwood air cadet summer training centre in 2000. His duties included spiritual advice for children aged 12 to 18.

Anne Kully, principal of Saint Patrick’s School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, said that in 2000 and 2001 Mr Neil volunteered at the school as part of his training at Christ of the King seminary, where he was studying to become a priest.

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