Rome, 6 March – Another Italian tourist was arrested in Cambodia a few days ago. The charge cited by Cambodian police is the sexual abuse of six children. F. C., 43, was arrested in Sihanoukville on Tuesday evening while in the company of a group of children, according to Suon Sophan, head of the police’s Anti-trafficking Department.
The news was relayed by ECPAT-Italia Onlus, an international network of agencies, which is present in more than 70 countries, and is committed to fighting the sexual exploitation of children for profit; sex tourism at the expense of children, child prostitution, the handling and trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation and child-pornography.
The man is accused of having molested four girls and two boys aged between eight and thirteen. “We have evidential proof of his guilt – the Cambodian investigators claim – but he has denied the crime”. He is now in prison awaiting trial. ECPAT is familiar with the situation in Cambodia. Sinanoukville, where the Italian was arrested, is Cambodia’s main coastal city: there were half a dozen guest houses ten years ago.
Today, with luxury hotels and guest houses, there has been a hundred-fold increase in overnight stays, with the same increase in the numbers of exploited children. Economic development is paid for with children’s lives as well, with their loss of liberty and enslavement.
In Sihanoukville itself, a centre will shortly open funded by ECPAT Italy and the Italian the NGO CIFA for the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children by tourists. “If the charges are confirmed, we will find ourselves dealing once more with a case of sex tourism at the expense of minors, in Cambodia where we have been engaged for two years, we work on projects to keep children away from the sex market”, said Marco Scarpati, Chairman of ECPAT-Italy, in a cautious comment on the arrest of the Italian tourist. But he went on to affirm: “Unfortunately it’s always the same scenario. A foreign tourist who buys a kid on the beach for next to nothing.”
According to ECPAT estimates, the number of children enslaved in the Cambodian sex market is at around 20,000. Kidnapped or bought by mafias from often unaware families, they are sold on to other criminal organisations who put them on the streets or in brothels.