Bangkok (Thailand), 27 March 2013 - Delegates at an INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes against Children meeting agreed to establish an INTERPOL Southeast Asia Working Party on Crimes against Children. To be held annually, the Working Party would bring together law enforcement officials, NGOs, private sector organisations and government representatives to share best practice, intelligence and investigation techniques and raise awareness across Southeast Asia on the harms associated with crimes against children.
Organized by the INTERPOL Liaison Office for Asia and South Pacific in Bangkok, in cooperation with the Royal Thai Police and jointly supported by UNODC and INTERPOL through the Australian AID initiative Project Childhood, the meeting in Bangkok brought together over 180 experts from government ministries, law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector organisations and academia from 28 countries.
At the meeting, Police delegates supported the project's development of a training curriculum on Investigating Sexual Exploitation of Children and its future use in national police training schools and academies. "This meeting illustrated the strong relationship UNODC has developed with INTERPOL and showcased the work we have undertaken to bring together government counterparts and law enforcement officials to better protect children in Southeast Asia," said Ms. Margaret Akullo, UNODC Project Coordinator, Project Childhood (Protection Pillar).
Meeting delegates also shared knowledge and best practices to protect victims and combat crimes against children, particularly by traveling child sex offenders. Topics included victim identification, Internet-facilitated crimes against children, child sex offenders and violent crimes against children. Delegates also worked to develop national and cross-border networks and gained greater understanding of the issues and the scale of crimes against children across Southeast Asia.
"Crimes against children is a serious issue that requires commitment, partnership and cooperation," Pol.Gen. Chatchawal Suksomjit, Director of Children Women Family Protection and Anti-Human Trafficking Center, Royal Thai Police told delegates at the opening ceremony.
In a pre-recorded address, Ms. Najat Mjid, UN Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, highlighted the global nature of crimes against children and urged delegates to develop and establish a global response, through a sustainable global legal framework. "Crimes against children are increasing worldwide," said Ms. Najat Mjid. "They cross borders and are complex, multidimensional and constantly evolve. ASEAN's resolve to tackle this issue and AusAID's commitment to protect children in the region and its support of Project Childhood and other programs are commendable."
Ms. Khine Myat Chit, Senior Officer, Security Cooperation Division, ASEAN Political and Security Community Department, ASEAN Secretariat, noted that the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 - and its open borders - made it important for governments and law enforcement to prepare pragmatic responses to resulting challenges, particularly those involving transnational organized crime. "As boundaries diffuse in this ever-shrinking world, unity becomes even more necessary. Only when we unite in spirit, can we truly cope with the challenges we face," said Ms. Khine Myat Chit.
During the meeting, INTERPOL staff from the Crimes against Children Team (France) - supported by Project Childhood (Protection Pillar) - provided a Training-of-Trainers course to police officers on using a Victim Identification Laboratory (ViLab). The ViLab is a mobile investigative tool that allows trained users to view child sexual abuse images for ongoing and unsolved investigations. Participants used the images - which can be sanitized depending on the audience - to attempt to identify potential victims and locations stored in the ViLab.
Project Childhood is a $7.5 million Australian AID (AusAID)-funded initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children - mainly in the travel and tourism sectors - in the Greater Mekong sub-region. The project focuses on Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam and builds on Australia's long-term support for programs that better protect children and prevent their abuse. Project Childhood is being implemented in two complementary pillars - the Protection Pillar, a partnership between UNODC and INTERPOL, and the Prevention Pillar, implemented by World Vision.
Project Childhood (Protection Pillar) aims to enhance law enforcement capacity to identify, arrest and prosecute travelling child-sex offenders in the Mekong region. To achieve these objectives Project Childhood (Protection Pillar) works closely with police and justice officials and other stakeholders in the four project countries.