Switzerland has moved to bolster its fight against citizens who commit paedophilia in countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.
Amid worldwide concern for the boom in child sex tourism and Internet pornography, Swiss authorities have agreed to station a police liaison officer in Bangkok to target Swiss paedophiles.
Ruth Metzler, the Swiss justice minister, also signed a new legal cooperation pact with the Philippines that would enable victims of Swiss paedophiles to give anonymous evidence to Swiss investigators using video links.
Metzler announced the agreement during a weeklong visit to Southeast Asia, where she was discussing with Asian counterparts issues such as money laundering, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Child sex tourism
At the centre of her visit, however, is the fight against Swiss who use Southeast Asian destinations as hunting grounds for child sex tourism.
Late last week, Metzler signed an agreement with Thai authorities committing both countries to regular police exchanges and closer legal cooperation.
Contact between the police forces of both countries is to be stepped-up, while Switzerland is to base a police liaison officer in Bangkok to tackle paedophilia and other crimes.
Switzerland is also to step-up its efforts in the Philippines.
From 2003, victims of sex crimes will be able to give evidence using video conferencing technology. Victims will be able to identify their attackers using the long-distance links, protecting their identity.
Mario Affentranger, acting head of the Swiss foreign ministry's division of Judicial Assistance, said cooperation between Switzerland and the Philippines would cover investigations as well as legal trials.
"This cooperation between Switzerland and the Philippines is a milestone in the fight against paedophilia," Affentranger said on Monday.
The Lausanne-based International Committee for the Dignity of Children said the agreement was a step in the right direction, and would help to speed up convictions.
Georges Glatz, committee president added, though, that any effort to stop child prostitution had to consider the economic dimensions of the child sex trade.
"It's very profitable. For the industry, ten children are the same as 100 women. So for consumers its much cheaper (to hire children), and the investment is less than for women," he told swissinfo.
He also said the Bangkok-based liaison officer would not enough. "In every sensitive country - Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia - Switzerland should establish police liaison officers."
The committee argues that clamping down on paedophiles in one country often leads to increases elsewhere, and that only a global approach, led by a powerful body such as the United Nations, can tackle the problem properly.
Booming sex industry
Swiss citizens, like people from many affluent nations, remain major consumers of child sex tourism.
According to authorities, Asian destinations favoured by Swiss paedophiles include the Philippines, Thailand, India, Cambodia and, more recently, Vietnam.
In Latin America, places such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Cuba are known hot spots.
According to a recent United Nations Children's Fund report, around one million children - mainly girls and a growing number of boys - enter the global sex trade every year.
In Thailand, the UNICEF report says, one in three sex workers is a child prostitute.
swissinfo with agencies
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