Cambodian Officials Abet Child Sex Tours

Some government officials in Cambodia are promoting and supporting the sexual exploitation of children in the tourist industry, an aid group said on Monday.

The group, World Vision International-Cambodia, said in a report there was a woeful lack of knowledge among tourist industry officials about the problem of child sex.

World Vision said it had discovered in a survey that many officials in the ministry of tourism said they had been involved in the sex-tourism trade.

More than three-quarters of 28 ministry officials queried said they had approached tour operators to supply girls for tourists, World Vision said.

Cambodia’s tourist industry is recovering after years of conflict and instability, but some social groups are concerned about the costs of that growth, including sex tourism.

The survey was part of a research project World Vision conducted with the ministry of tourism, said Laurence Gray, a programme manager with World Vision.

High-Ranking Support for Brothels

In Cambodia’s three main tourist centers, nearly three-quarters of 68 street children, child vendors and beer-promotion girls under 18 questioned said they had had sexual relations with tourists, the survey found.

But more than half of tourism officials questions said they thought a child aged 14–17 was legally mature, and a similar number said they had received no training on the law and the problem of child-sex tourism.

Social groups trying to tackle the growing problem often found that high-ranking government officials supported brothel owners, the survey found.

Companies in the tourist industry need to be held accountable for standards which allow exploitation and the government had to ensure the best interests of children, Gray said.