Don’t take illegal pictures of people

  • Taking photos of people on public areas without their consent, can be considered espionage. 

If you come to Cambodia to take pictures of other foreigners to support campaigns such as the persecution of sexual offenders, you must know that it is considered espionage and thus it is a crime. Working in any organization to prevent or to persecute offenders, does not entitle you to take photos of persons without their consent. A good mission or a great ideal such as protecting children, does not give you the right to commit another crime that could be also abusive like defaming the name of a person that could be mostly innocent. Taking an illegal picture of a man would make him a suspect of a possible undergoing crime. Only the authorities are entitled to proceed in an investigation that includes the production of photographs, videos or audios of possible suspects. Even like that, authorities should respect the privacy of a possible suspect under the assumption that all persons are innocent until the contrary is not proven. It is especially delicate in Cambodia, because in our judicial system, every suspect is guilty until the contrary is not proven. In our Cambodian judicial system, judges and prosecutors keep as a goal to produce a jail sentence. Several Cambodian prosecution cases would not make a case in Japan, Europe and US, as they do in Cambodia and take any example.


To conclude that a person is suspect of a possible crime, authorities must have very strict reasons to conclude that a certain person is going to commit a crime or participates in one.

In the case of sexual offenders, we understand it as a crime when an adult – national or foreigner – engages in sexual relations with underage persons and we understand it as younger to 18 years old. The age of consent in Cambodia is 13 years old, meaning that a person younger than 13 cannot be a sexual partner and thus any sexual relation with a younger of 12 years old is considered sexual abuse or – in a lesser case – indecent or sexual assault. You can be prosecuted in Cambodia for having sexual relations with a person younger than 15 – or between 13 and 18 if that persons did not consent according to the Law on Suppression of the Kidnapping, Trafficking, and Exploitation of Human Beings.

Sexual intercourse with minors under 15 years old shall be punished with imprisonment for 5 to 10 years (Art- 42). Indecent acts against minors of 15 mean touching or exposing genital and it gives prison for 1 to 3 years (Art- 43).

Going around with a camera to persecute possible sexual offenders is not a good idea, because you will break other laws such as the right of privacy and the right to a good name. If you take photos of a man in a public area just because he is near minors, that person can accuse you of defamation. That person can call the authorities and you could be arrested under espionage charges, involving also your own organization, if you are working for one. Persons around can find you also disturbing, such as disturbing customers and they could take violent actions against you.

If you are interested in protecting children, there are many other ways that you could support it. After all, everyone that knows a kid on danger, should report to the authorities immediately. Suspicious persons are easy to determine, but it is necessary to be aware of falling into stereotypes like this:

  • Most Cambodian people look very much young to Westerns, as most Westerns look so old to Asians. It means that you have to know the Cambodian real age: that teenager girl or boy that you think is 15 or 16, actually is 22! Make a test around you right now.
  • An old European fellow with a young Cambodian woman? Even if you find it disgusting or ridiculous or even if you, being a Western woman feel jealousy, the guy is not doing a crime… it is his private life. Mostly, that younger lady is older than 18, you can test it too…. same for the most rare case of a mom with a Cambodian young man
  • A Western man walking in the street with some Asian children… that´s difficult… there are some hypothesis:
    • He is married to a Cambodian woman and he has Cambodian kids… biological or adopted.
    • He is works in an orphanage and brings the kids out – in general staff of orphanages must bring distinctions, but it is not always the case.
    • He is the white uncle…
    • He is a pedophile… In any case, you are not entitled to take photos of this man with the children, because you don’t have any evidence of a crime. It is not a crime to walk the street with some children. In any part of the planet it is a crime, then the man is innocent at the first glance.
  • Most Western pedophiles in Cambodia have already a criminal record in their own country. It can be proven also. After conviction in Cambodia, they are deported and most of them are waited by the authorities of their own countries for similar crimes.  In this case, if you know that the guy walking the street is in the wanted list for sexual offences against children, here we should be on alert and we have a case.

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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

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