The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Interior, together with several partner organisations launch a three-year project Safety for Children and their Rights Online (SCROL).

The launch was on February 13 during Safer Internet Day. The project aims to ensure that children are free from online sexual exploitation. It will contribute to safer behaviour among children and their communities, support the improvement of legal frameworks, and establish reporting mechanisms.

Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the interior ministry and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said at the event that rapid evolution of the Kingdom’s digital sector has provided many benefits in promoting and accelerating economic and social development. At the same time, she warned that some bad actors were using the internet for nefarious purposes.

“All people, but young people especially, must be wary when they are online, particularly when it comes to unsolicited chat. Some people use fraud or deception to commit crimes online,” she added.

According to the Cambodia: Disruptive Harm report, released in 2022, approximately 160,000 Cambodian children aged 12-17 had experienced some form of online sexual exploitation, including grooming, exploitation through video calls, extortion or the production of materials such as sexualised videos and pictures.

Bun Eng also said that the Kingdom is sometimes used as a sanctuary by criminals for human trafficking and online fraud.

“Most of the victims are not Cambodians, but foreigners, as are the criminals,” she added.

Samleang Seila, APLE executive director, said that many children in the world are victimised through the Internet. Between 2017 and 2019, child pornography on the Internet increased dramatically, and it continued to rise sharply as the world went increasingly online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is an urgent need to keep our children safe online and give them a safer internet to play, explore, connect, and do so much more in this digital age. As the implementing partner of SCROL, we hope the project will support and influence national mechanisms that enable more effective prevention of online abuse and protection of those at risk,” he added.

“Our ambition for the SCROL project is to bring the voices of Cambodian children to the centre, so that decision makers at the local, sub-national, and national level understand their experiences and challenges and take action to increase their online safety,” said Kong Villa, Cambodia programme manager at TdH NL Cambodia, one of the partners in the project.