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With the paedophile-hunters on the streets of Phnom Penh

For 13 years, an NGO’s investigators have tracked Western, and Chinese, men who sexually exploit Cambodian children, turning dossiers over to authorities. Now it aims to step back and help police gather evidence against suspects.

IT’S MID-AFTERNOON on a Saturday and the streets of Phnom Penh resemble a failed experiment in automotive anarchy as we rumble through another unmarked intersection amid clouds of dust and a cacophony of horns and screeching brakes.

Our driver remains impassive as he manoeuvres us between a giant pothole and a beaten-up hatchback that has inex­pli­cably stopped in the middle of the road, taking a left onto a quieter street lined with modest bars and restaurants.

“A people trafficker who brings in Vietnamese girls is often at that café over there,” says Tim Huon, investigation manager at anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), as we slow to a crawl opposite a small eatery that is almost indistinguishable from the many others on the street. “We know what he’s doing but we don’t have enough evidence,” says Huon with a shrug.

Although the café looks empty, we linger for a moment before rejoining the barely organised chaos that is the Cambodian capital’s traffic. We have only a few hours and there are many other locations Huon wants to show me. Road signs might be in short supply here but sexual exploitation hot spots are not.

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If you come across child sexual abuse material online (CSAM), report it. You can also call our Hotline 092 311 511 to talk to our staff.