Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has urged officials to better implement preventive measures aimed at stopping online child sexual abuse and to step up daily enforcement actions against these crimes.

He made the remarks at the official launch of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) in Cambodia 2021-2025, held virtually on July 14.

Sar Kheng said technology and modern forms of communication require that everyone, even children and students, have access to the internet. Therefore, it was crucial that the government increase its efforts at online safety education for children, adolescents and youth in both urban and rural communities.

He noted that these advancements in technology have brought with them some negative consequences, such as criminals having the opportunity to take advantage of children through illegal and unethical practices and exploit them sexually online, an emerging issue that is rapidly growing and placing children at greater risk globally, including Cambodia.

“All ministries and institutions . . . should pay attention to incorporating the action plan . . . into the daily operational plans of their units. This is an important indicator of support and participation from their institutions,” he said.

According to the initial situational analysis of online child sexual abuse, 60 per cent of Cambodian children who participated in the survey said they felt they or their peers were at risk of online sexual exploitation when using the internet because some children were being forced to create and share pornographic images.

For Cambodia, there is no official data on the extent of online child sexual exploitation. But through reports from the general public to the authorities and the internet hotline, it is estimated that the average number of incidents per year is more than 150, which includes instances of people sharing child pornography online.

An educational cartoon image on Online Child Sexual Exploitation released by UNICEF on Wednesday. UNICEF

Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Sauth said the participation of the criminal justice system and law enforcement agents in cooperation with relevant development partners and NGOs is the best way to ensure that Cambodia’s children are protected from such abuse.

“Children also have to receive . . . rehabilitation and therapy if they are victims of sexual exploitation as soon as it is discovered in order for them to heal physically and mentally,” he said.

The plan sets six strategic priorities including strengthening effective implementation of policy and governance; ensuring the involvement of the criminal justice system; promoting measures to prevent exploitation and rehabilitate the victims; and strengthening community safety.

UNICEF Cambodia and development partners said the estimated cost of the OCSE action plan 2021-2025 is more than $3.8 million over the five years of implementation, covering all six strategic areas.

They said 36 per cent of the budget for the action plan is from the government’s coffers, while the remaining 64 per cent will be donated by development partners.