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Southeast Asia: Report advises targeting broad range of sex tourists

The report suggests interventions to help stop child exploitation would be more effective if the profile of sex tourists was expanded to include regional and even local visitors.

February 2008

This boy, a street child in Cambodia, was sexually assaulted by a Western tourist who was ultimately apprehended through a local child exploitation hotline. A recent report suggests that enforcement efforts in Southeast Asia should be broadened beyond international visitors and should also include domestic and regional sex tourism suspects.
This boy, a street child in Cambodia, was sexually assaulted by a Western tourist who was ultimately apprehended through a local child exploitation hotline. A recent report suggests that enforcement efforts in Southeast Asia should be broadened beyond international visitors and should also include domestic and regional sex tourism suspects.
© 2007 Sopheak Kong/World Vision
The infamous sex tourist of Southeast Asia has a clear media persona male, white, European, American, or Australian, and wealthy enough to treat children as a transaction.

But a leap in regional tourism and the poverty of communities living close to tourist destinations such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Luang Prabang in Laos, and Thailand's beaches is telling a different story.

A broader challenge

A new report (pdf file) by author Heather Peters, commissioned by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP) and World Vision, claims that existing interventions could be more effective if their range broadened to target visitors from Japan, Korea, China, and even domestic tourists.

The report, "Sex, Sun and Heritage: Tourism Threats and Opportunities in South East Asia," notes that Thailand and Cambodia have ambitious tourism agendas, with both countries hoping to double the size of their tourism industries within a few years.

The biggest challenge, according to Peters, is to protect the communities and children living alongside major tourist sites.

Suggestions to reduce exploitation

The report says there is a clear link between child sex tourism and child trafficking. It also notes that poor children growing up in tourist destinations are at increased risk of abuse.

Among the recommendations from the report:

  • Governments of both countries (Thailand and Cambodia) should, through their national tourism authorities, provide legislation, awareness, and training to the tourism industry to reduce tolerance of child sex crimes.
  • Governments and nongovernmental organizations should broaden their primary focus from Western pedophiles to also include regional and domestic tourists.
  • More research should be done on common beliefs regarding the child sex industry; for instance, the perception that families willingly send their children into prostitution or that Asian men prefer girls and virgins.
  • Skills training to offer alternatives to the sex industry should be realistic, targeted, and community-sanctioned.

Both UNIAP and World Vision have multiple programs to reduce child sexual exploitation and trafficking in Thailand and Cambodia. World Vision provides shelters, rehabilitation programs, and livelihood training for survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse, as well as prevention strategies for the reduction of child exploitation.

World Vision also helps to maintain a child sex tourism hotline in several provinces of Cambodia. Callers to the hotline can report suspected cases of child sexual exploitation, which are investigated by local authorities. The hotline has led to the prosecution of hundreds of offenders since its implementation in 2005.


Learn more


>> Read the full report , "Sex, Sun and Heritage: Tourism Threats and Opportunities in South East Asia."
>> Read more about World Vision's Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project.

Three ways you can help

>> Please pray for children around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, who live in impoverished conditions that make them vulnerable to abuse. Pray that World Vision, in partnership with other organizations, would receive the resources necessary to help fight the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.
>> Ask Congress to increase resources to prosecute U.S. citizens who sexually exploit children overseas.
>> Give monthly to help exploited children find hope and new life, including shelter, food, health care, and trauma recovery. Become a Child Crisis Partner.

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