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Swiss target sex tourism in Thailand

Charities say around 650,000 children work as prostitutes in Asia Keystone

Switzerland is sending a police attaché to Thailand to help in the fight against child sex tourism.

This content was published on January 6, 2003 - 11:57

He is expected to work with local police on specific child sex cases, sharing knowledge on known paedophiles.

The officer is currently undergoing training and will take up his post in the spring.

Meanwhile, the government is introducing legislation enabling Swiss courts to try paedophiles who sexually abuse children abroad.

Until now, a lack of evidence has made bringing charges difficult. One problem has been getting victims to give evidence in a foreign country.

From this year, 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.

Paedophiles

Some organisations have expressed fears that clamping down on paedophiles in one country will simply lead to increases elsewhere.

The Lausanne-based International Committee for the Dignity of Children says only a global approach led by a powerful body such as the United Nations can tackle the problem properly.

The organisation has called on the Swiss authorities to establish police liaison officers in every sensitive country, including Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.

Negotiations are underway to make a similar appointment in the Philippines.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million paedophiles a year travel to developing countries in search of child prostitutes. Thailand and the Philippines are amongst the most favoured destinations.

Booming 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.

Children's charities say that a million children enter the global sex market every year and that in Asia alone more than 650,000 children under the age of 16 work as prostitutes.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, the child pornography industry has an estimated turnover of $20 billion (SFr27.8 million).

Widespread poverty and lax law enforcement have meant paedophiles from the West have little problem finding children to exploit.

High-level corruption has also proved a major obstacle to prosecuting offenders with police in Thailand and Cambodia frequently accused of accepting bribes to release suspected paedophiles.

swissinfo

Key facts

The Swiss are posting a police officer to Bangkok to combat child sex tourism.
The officer takes up his post in the spring.
He will share information with local police.
New legislation allows Swiss courts to try paedophiles who commit offences abroad.

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