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Cambodia: Child rape & trafficking increasing

Publish Date: 01 Jun 2004

Source: LICADHO Media Statement on the Occasion of International Children's Day

Reports of Child Rape & Trafficking Increasing

Top, a 16-year-old girl, sold rice cakes to help support her destitute family. On the promise that she could earn more money working as a domestic helper, Top agreed to go with an older woman who brought her to a brothel and sold her for $50. On her first night, Top was beaten and forced to take five clients. On the fourth day, she managed to escape and is now in hiding because the brothel owner has hired a gang to find her. Top suffers from nightmares and other psychological distress, and is undergoing medical tests for sexually-transmitted diseases.

Rem is a 15-year-old girl abducted by a 30-year-old man who detained and raped her repeatedly over three months. When her parents located her, the perpetrator (in the presence of the police) forced them to sign a statement absolving him of any wrongdoing in exchange for their daughter's freedom.  The parents signed the statement, but later filed a court case against him.  The case was later dismissed for lack of evidence. The perpetrator, after a month in jail, was released and has now returned to his home. Rem, on the other hand, has tried to commit suicide three times and had to be placed in an NGO shelter for special care.

Rem and Top are just two of the many children who are sexually abused or trafficked each day in Cambodia, and who are left to face long and difficult recoveries from their ordeals.

"Cambodia faces a crisis of trafficking and sex crimes which is destroying the lives of its children," said Kek Galabru, president of LICADHO, speaking on the occasion of International Children's Day, June 1. "Reported cases continue to increase and, most worryingly, the victims seem to be getting younger and younger."

Based on cases reported to LICADHO's Child Rights Office, rape is the biggest threat to Cambodian children. Child rape accounted for 60% of cases reported to the office in 1999 and 2000, 62% in 2001, and 69% in both 2002 and 2003. Child victims compromise the majority of all rape and indecent assault cases investigated by LICADHO, with 87% of victims in 2002 and 77% in 2003 aged under 18 years.  More than 40% of victims in 2002 and 2003 were  aged 12 or younger.

Trafficking of children - which occurs in Cambodia for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor or adoption - is another major threat to the Kingdom's youth. Child trafficking comprised 6% of cases investigated by LICADHO's Child Rights Office in 2002 and 7% in 2003. Child trafficking victims are also among the increasing number of children reported injured or killed by human rights abuses in 2002 and 2003 (9% and 20% respectively).

"Unfortunately, many perpetrators of child rape or trafficking are not arrested and properly prosecuted," said Kek Galabru. "The victims are left to cope with the immense physical and psychological consequences of the abuse, while their abusers live freely."

According to LICADHO research, only 71 of 179 rape and indecent assaults cases investigated by the NGO in 2002 have so far been prosecuted and gone to trial, leading to 63 convictions and eight acquittals. However, of the 63 convictions, perpetrators in 11 cases were convicted in absentia and have not been arrested. In two gang rape cases, only one among several perpetrators is in prison.

LICADHO will mark International Children's Day with activities in 13 provinces which will include panel discussions, quiz shows, games, and lotteries for prizes such as bicycles and school bags. The activities will focus on the problems of child rape and trafficking, as part of an ongoing LICADHO campaign to draw public and government attention to the need for urgent action to end these assaults on children's bodies and minds.

For further information:

Ms. Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO, 012 803-650
Mr. Ngeng Teng, Children's Rights Coordinator of LICADHO, 012 813-101

© 2004 LICADHO