|Illustrative Photo. The message section of a popular social media platform in Việt Nam. Pedophiles in Việt Nam often take advantage of social media, online chat forums and game platforms to approach their victims, experts have said. — Photo vietnamplus.vn|
HẠ LONG — Online sexual exploitation of children has been increasing in Việt Nam in recent years.
This information was revealed at a seminar on electronic evidence in child sexual exploitation cases held in Hạ Long City on Monday and Tuesday.
The two-day seminar brought together 80 Vietnamese prosecutors and international experts, who shared their experience handling electronic evidence in prosecuting child sexual exploitation crimes.
Việt Nam is one of the countries with the fastest internet development rate and highest number of social media users in the world. Pedophiles have been taking advantage of social media and online chat forums to approach their victims and make sexual advances, said Dr Lại Kiên Cường, deputy head of the high-tech crime prevention police department of the People’s Police Academy.
Police and prosecutors often struggle to find evidence of sexual harassment in these cases since incriminating conversations are in a digital form and are easily erased, he said.
Around 1,500 to 1,800 child sexual exploitation cases are reported and prosecuted in Việt Nam each year, but a lot more remained undiscovered due to fear of shame from the victims and their families.
Some cases are reported several days after the incidents unfolded, meaning there is no more physical evidence to be found, said Vũ Thị Đoan, deputy head of the social-order crime investigation department of Quảng Ninh Province’s People’s Procuracy.
“Investigations of child sexual exploitation cases in Việt Nam still mostly rely on physical evidence,” she said. “But it would be of much help for the prosecuting process if electronic evidence was also collected.”
“But bringing this evidence to trial would be difficult since we don’t have the equipment to view or present them,” she added.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines electronic evidence as “any information of probative value that is either stored or transmitted in digital form.”
Himal Ojha, a Cybercrime and Digital Forensics Consultant from UNODC, said that in countries where crypto currencies such as bitcoin have been legalised, cyber criminals can use these type of currency to buy “child abuse materials” and get access to online child pornography services.
These payments often cannot be traced since they do not require an intermediary like a bank, making it difficult to collect evidence, he said.
“Cryptocurrencies are not yet legal in Việt Nam, but I would not say that banning them will make the country less vulnerable to cybercrimes,” he said. “Even if you don’t have crypto currencies, one day or the other they will come, very soon. The best thing is to be on the safe side, which is to have proper legislations and to have a balance between legislation and promoting [the commercial industry].”
UNODC has been running a programme on prosecution of violence against children and child sexual exploitation cases in Việt Nam, which aims to enhance the capacity of the country’s law enforcement officers and prosecutors in handling this type of crime. — VNS