Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi), bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
Several factors have made Cambodia a prime destination for child sex tourists, including corruption, poverty, and failure to enforce certain laws. The authors of a 2011 Ecpat International report identified a number of cultural and sociological factors that led to Cambodian children's involvement in sex with adults. "It has been observed that Cambodian children are indeed expected to abide by rules set forth by adults, and saying 'no' to an adult is not easily tolerated," reads the report.
Foreigners typically have access to greater resources to bribe officials in the system. Furthermore, grey areas surrounding the custody of children removed by outsiders from sexual relationships with adults have complicated NGO attempts to bring legal proceedings, where the parent involved has tried to regain custody of the child and tries to drop charges against alleged offenders, usually because they have received money or gifts. There are numerous sources which refer to defendants charged with sex offences in Cambodia "buying off" court officials or judges or other government officials to avoid being charged or to obtain early release from prison, and of civil plaintiffs accepting extra-judicial compensation for withdrawing the complaint. As Cambodian law does not criminalize intent to commit sexual offenses, the so called "buy-and-bust" model of catching offenders is not used in Cambodia, as it has no value in criminal prosecutions.
Since the shutting down of brothels as a source of child sex, the market for children 14 and under is run predominately by brokers. Eric Meldrum, representative of the NGO South East Asian Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities (SISHA) notes, "So for instance, a beer garden, karaoke joint, most restaurants, they all have the numbers of brokers. And the brokers basically go to these establishments saying: 'Right if any of your customers want a virgin, if any of your customers want 12 year old, 13 year old, you phone me basically.'" The children are then brought to the establishment and the customer can choose one and have the child driven to a guest house.
Michael Lewis Clark became the first United States citizen charged under after surveillance team members from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) and Friends-International observed Clark conversing with young boys in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He escorted the boys to the Pyco Guesthouse, a facility commonly used by foreign travelers to have sex with children, and was found by the Cambodian National Police with two young boys, aged ten and thirteen, nude. ICE agents executed a search warrant on Clark's residence and found paraphernalia including lubricants, North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) bulletins, Viagra, child pornography, and pamphlets about sponsoring children.
The Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation creates various offenses relating to child pornography, but it is only an offense to possess child pornography if the pornography is to be distributed, sold, leased, displayed, projected or presented in a public place.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which allows the U.S. to impose sanctions and withhold non-essential foreign aid for those countries that fail to show "significant efforts" to eliminate sex trafficking in their countries, was used to pressure Cambodia to prosecute sex traffickers. During 2002, Cambodia had been placed on Tier 3, the list of countries that "neither satisfy the minimum standards nor demonstrate a significant effort to come into compliance" and the new U.S. Ambassador began to work with senior Cambodian authorities to bring Cambodia into compliance.
- "As child prostitution in places like Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Philippines comes under increasing scrutiny, pedophiles are believed to be turning to easier targets such as Cambodia. An abundance of poor, often homeless children, cheap accommodation and a weak police and judicial system make the country ideal for them." http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/preying-vulnerable