High-Ranking Gov’t Officials ‘Involved Deeply,’ Report Says
Government officials and NGO workers alike are expressing concern over the role of tour operators and government officials in encouraging Cambodia’s sex trade, according to a recent report.
In a survey titled, “Children’s Work, Adult’s Play,” interviews with people either directly or indirectly involved with tourism found that roughly 80 percent of 28 officials at the Ministry of Tourism said they had seen a tour guide “supply girls” to tourists.
The study, which will be presented Tuesday by Cambodian officials at a Bangkok conference, also found that both government officials and NGO workers believe the main barrier to preventing the sexual exploitation of women and children are Cambodian officials who protect brothel owners.
“Many high-ranking officers [are] involved deeply in child-sex tourism and sexual exploitation of children…and support the traffickers’ activities,” said the report, compiled by World Vision-Cambodia, which works with victims of the child sex trade, and the Ministry of Tourism.
Of the eight NGOs interviewed, 36 percent supported this claim. Of the 14 government officials surveyed, 26 percent agreed.
Three representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will attend the Bangkok conference this week, which is aimed at combating child sex tourism in the region. Billed as the first international workshop of its kind, it will host industry experts from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Cambodian delegation will discuss the World Vision report in the hopes of exchanging ideas with experts from around the region, said Yang Van, director of the tourism industry department at the Ministry of Tourism. “I want the ministry to get experience from other countries who have implemented guidelines to hotels and restaurants [to prevent child sex tourism],” he said.
Not on the list to attend the conference is the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, So Mara, whose name was linked to a police raid on a sex ring of Romanian and Moldovan women who were held in a Phnom Penh hotel.
Yang Van said he had no comment regarding the incident.
So Mara was reportedly in the company of one woman from the hotel on Aug 13. All the women said they had been held prisoner and forced to work in the sex trade. The seven women were repatriated from Phnom Penh to their home countries on Wednesday by UN human rights workers.
Two of the women last week said So Mara brought groups of Thai businessmen to the nightclub where they were being coerced to sleep with customers.
Municipal authorities moved Tuesday to close the nightclub, located in the Best Western Tai-Ming Plaza Hotel on Norodom Boulevard, which they said was operating without a proper permit from the Ministry of Tourism.
Police are hunting for a Romanian woman they believe brought the others to Phnom Penh, but she is believed to have fled Cambodia.
The two-day Bangkok workshop is being funded by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific, the Australian aid agency AusAID and End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking.
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