Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have become magnets for child predators, according to a report by Terre des Hommes. (Reuters Photo/Pichi Chuang)

Southeast Asia Is Magnet for Child Predators

BY :HAPPY AMANDA AMALIA & NUR YASMIN

MAY 18, 2019

Jakarta. Non-governmental organization Terre des Hommes in Thailand warns that Southeast Asian countries are in the grip of a new wave of pedophile activity.

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines have become main targets for pedophiles due to widespread poverty, and weak law and justice system.

Foreign and local pedophiles seek sexual services from underage children personally in these countries using the internet.

According to the NGO, pedophiles often set up and witness acts of child sexual abuse on live streaming service sites and via web cameras.

Experts warn that pedophiles use a variety of mobile and online channels, including social media, video sharing sites and the dark web to direct and watch rape and sexual abuse of children without being identified.

These child predators pay for services on these sites using digital currencies (cryptocurrency) like Bitcoin, which is hard to trace.

They mostly prefer platforms that allow for direct or live communication, François Xavier Souchet from Terre des Hommes said in the report.

Last month, legal group International Justice Mission (IJM) warned that children in the Philippines are at risk of being forced into acts of live sexual abuse, where pedophiles pay to direct them in an online "show."

It also revealed that easy access to web services and money transfers has made the country a global hotspot for this inappropriate act.

The report noted that even parents or family members often participate in setting up or even harassing children.

Terre des Hommes conducted a social experiment in which they created a computer-generated girl named "Sweetie" and registered her in a chatroom.

In just a matter of weeks, Sweetie was approached by around 20,000 people, most of them men.

Patterns of abuse have changed because of increasing access to the internet and technology, the NGO said. Although police are more assertive, greater public awareness is still needed to stop offenders.

What to Do?

According to a publication by the Communication and Information Ministry, children are most vulnerable to violations of privacy on the internet.

Parents often fail to protect their children's privacy, especially when uploading photos on social media.

Here's how parents can help protect their children from pedophiles online:

  • Avoid uploading photos of kids without clothes.
  • Don't upload or tag photos of other people's children on social media without asking for their parents' permission first.
  • Don't expose a child's personal identity online.
  • Don't upload photos of children that show their weaknesses, fears or anything that might embarrass them. This may have a long-lasting psychological effect on the children.
  • Don't upload photos of a sick child.
  • Don't upload photos of a child engaging in unsafe activities that could trigger a controversy, e.g. smoking, playing with weapons, etc.
  • Regulate how much time your kids spend on their phone and social media, and be aware at all times of what they are doing online.

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