Institutional child sexual abuse and exploitation is a continuing concern in Cambodia. The majority of residential care homes and even some churches are operating without proper and legal registration. Many suspects and perpetrators who intend to target children are likely targeting such institutions. They may apply to be volunteers or full-time staff to easily and directly access children.
In the last week of October 2016, a Korean pastor who runs a so-called church where community members, children and neighbourhood members could pray was arrested by the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police in Siem Reap province for allegedly abusing as many as nine underage girls in the church.
Investigations proved that the Korean recruited many underage girls from poor and low-educated families to live with him in the church as well as supporting their family financially. Based on the experience and expertise of APLE in the field for more than a decade, this is how many offenders groom and gain trust from families and entire communities.
The Korean is being held provisionally for his preliminary charges of Sexual Intercourse with Minor under Fifteen Years and Purchase of Child Prostitution, the offenses which shall be punishable between 5-10 and 7-15 years’ imprisonment if he is found guilty.
It is imperative that these children are protected through strong oversight of church or residential care as well as enforced relevant laws and child protection policies.