There are few things more horrifying than the sexual exploitation of a child. Perhaps it is made even worse to think that those who are meant to protect the child (parents, police, court officials) are complicit in the harm of that child. No place on Earth was worse than Cambodia.
But that has changed. According to International Justice Mission (IJM), Cambodian officials have said, “No more,” and they meant it.
In the early 2000s, the Cambodian government estimated that 30 percent of those in the country’s sex industry were children. But news coverage of Western men negotiating the purchase of first- and second-grade girls in Svay Pak embarrassed Cambodia and revolted its principal international donor, the United States. When then-U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray warned the interior minister that Cambodia would lose U.S. aid if it didn’t clean up its act, the government responded with alacrity. It sacked corrupt officers from the anti-trafficking police unit and installed new leadership. A strong anti-trafficking law was adopted, and hundreds of pimps, brothel owners and foreign pedophiles were arrested, charged, convicted and jailed.