|Officials from the justice ministries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Việt Nam attended the Second Regional Legal Research Group meeting on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, held in Hà Nội. — Photos Courtesy of the UNODC|
HÀ NỘI — As Southeast Asian countries improve their connectivity and promote tourism, representatives from four countries in the region on Thursday discussed steps to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
Officials from the justice ministries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Việt Nam discussed the issue at the Second Regional Legal Research Group meeting on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, held in Hà Nội. The meeting was organised by the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with Việt Nam’s Ministry of Justice.
Experts shared legal research findings and made recommendations to strengthen laws, law enforcement and international co-operation to protect children from transnational sex offenders.
In 2012, Việt Nam led the initiative to establish the Regional Legal Research Group during a UNODC Project Childhood meeting on law enforcement co-operation to combat sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. Since then, members of the group have rotated hosting annual meetings, and share the latest trends and developments in legislation and implementation to address the issue.
The group promotes the adoption of legal frameworks, the harmonisation of child protection laws and the sharing of knowledge on the effectiveness of specific legislative and policy approaches.
“Legal and judicial reforms are at the centre of anti-child sex tourism efforts by the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Việt Nam. Revisions in the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code as well as in other relevant legislations in Việt Nam have been aimed at strengthening the legal basis for fighting against the sexual exploitation of children,” Christopher Batt, UNODC Vietnam officer-in-charge, said.
The heads of delegations of all four nations discussed the cross-border complexity of this transnational crime and the urgency in strengthening cooperation in the ASEAN region. Representatives also presented an overview of child sex offences and preliminary legal research findings, discussed recommendations and agreed on areas of mutual interest for future collaboration.
Nguyễn Thị Kim Thoa, director of Department of Criminal and Administrative Law under Việt Nam’s justice ministry, said, “If there is no cooperation, we cannot combat this serious crime effectively.” The meeting provided a good opportunity for the four countries and various organisations to discuss the legal framework related to the crime, to identify the gaps as well as to agree on the collaboration opportunities in legal research, she said.
Preventing the sexual exploitation of children requires more than comprehensive laws. The UNODC report, Protecting the Future: Improving the Response to Child Sex Offending in Southeast Asia, recommends that developing a legal framework must go hand in hand with improving the capacity to enforce the laws and changing the attitude of the criminal justice officers.
Noriko Shibata, UNODC crime prevention and criminal justice officer, commended the Regional Legal Research Group for their co-operation and commitment to protecting children from abuse. — VNS