Recently the press reported the case of Shunichi Nakagawa, a 33 years old Japanese photographers who was convicted by the Sihanoukville Court to six years in prison under the charges of children abuse. He has also to pay 119 dollars to every child that was victim of his behavior. After he finishes his conviction, he will be expelled from Cambodia, according to the sentence. By its part, the Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) is going to appeal the sentence to demand more compensation from Nakagawa to the children.
The Japanese photographer was arrested in August 2008 when the police caught him making photos to naked boys aged 7 to 14. It is not the first time that he gets a sentence. He already got convicted in Japan for two and a half years under same charges.
It seems that children abuse became pandemic in Cambodia. If time ago land mines – Cambodia were always associated, the issue of children under the threat of abuse is becoming usual on the media, something that is positive if we consider that information is a way to discover and fight a social evil. The pressure of international community over Cambodia to develop a strongest legislation over child abuse perpetrators is giving results. However, there are many things to do in this regard. For example, foreigners seem to be under a special attention by the media and NGOs, while children abusers are mostly Cambodians under the astonishing indifference of some local authorities, some of these same NGOs and the society in general.
On 6th January 2009 the corps of two girls, aged 12 and 14, were discovered in a wood in Pursat Province. The girls were raped, beaten to death and hung from a tree in an act of savage worthy of any cruel story of the Khmer Rouse era. The news was passed by The Cambodia Daily and was poorly mentioned in the Khmer media. Since then, little has been done to discover the criminals, who are surely not barangs. Then, there is a kind of silent national agreement that children abuse ‘is made by foreigners‘. To this point, cases like the one of Nakagawa is shown as the proof that something is been done in the country to ‘protect the children’, when savage criminals like the ones of the wood of Pursat enjoy full indifference and impunity.
In the case of the Japanese photographer, APLE is appealing to give more compensation to the boys, because ‘(…) is very small and does nothing to repair the victims’ reputations (…)’ Translating, it means that 119 American dollars is not enough for every child and, therefore, the guy should pay a more meaningful number to ‘repair the victims’ reputation.’
Of course the job of an organization as APLE is great. However, there is a limit: we are taking the problem from the side of repression and doing very little in the site of prevention.
If we were going to put the Nakagawa’s case in a more deep context, we should bring to Court other characters as well. The first to be investigated by a repressive frame should be the children parents. Surely, every case has its lights and shadows and accusations should not be done on air. However, in a preventive frame, parents in Cambodia should be more responsible of the safety of their children. How is it possible that children of 7 to 14 years old are invited by an alien to be photographed naked and the parents do not know it? It is not a secret that many parents in Cambodia send their children to ‘get some money’ in order to ‘support the family’s economy’ at any cost and even, certain subjects ‘sell’ their children to traffic nets, as it happens for example in Poipet. If the ‘victims’ reputation’ is recovered by money, under such logic ‘let us sell reputation,’ while many foreigners will become victims of bad intentionally offers of underage prostitution. The system would work like this: you tempt the barang to abuse, he will be denounced to the authorities and he has to ‘compensate the victims’ reputation’ with a good number of dollars.
Why our structures for the protection of our children are not talking of formation, prevention, attention to the child victim after the incident, attention to the family and reinforcement of best campaigns to make conscience of the problem?
The other character to be called to acquaintance is the school. We hope that every of the victims of Nakagawa is attending school. If not, the compensation that is being asked by APLE should be to guarantee that the boys would attend school immediately. If not, the children are suffering other abuse: they are been denied their right to a basic education. If they are attending school, their schools should be investigated, because their students are under threat of abuse and their teachers are doing little to prevent it.
It is necessary to enforce a better law for the protection of children. But such law must be completed and just. The repressive part of the process of children protection must be the last step. The first step is to create conditions to prevent such cases through the education of the same children and the education of their families. Every body should be responsible in fighting this social evil.
It is possible that other guys like Nakagawa come to Cambodia to look for children to abuse. But if our education systems, our families and the same children are awared of the danger, such guys could do a little in a more mature society.
Chrann Chamrouen: ‘Man sentenced over child porn’, The Phnom Penh Post, July 17, 2009.