Singapore – Asean is planning an all-out war to fight its image as a destination for “child sex escapades”. Officials from the 10-member organisation are now working on the appropriate language for the Asean Travellers’ Code, which will warn tourists against having sex with children.
The warnings could be carried on immigration forms, visas and publicity materials at immigration checkpoints. They are meant to create a strong association for travellers, in the same way that the Asean region is known for its zero-tolerance policy on drug trafficking.
“If we allow this image that child sex tourism is flourishing in Southeast Asia, it will be very bad for our countries,” Asean Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong said during a conference on child sex tourism and trafficking in Singapore on April 27.
According to some estimates, Asia has as many as one million child prostitutes, with Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand – and lately Myanmar and Vietnam - being the hotspots for those seeking sex with minors.
For the longest time, efforts to curb the trade have been hampered by problems of poverty and corruption in some countries, which ensure a ready stream of children forced into prostitution.
Mr Ong suggested that some measures for dealing with terrorism could be applied to trafficking, such as freezing the funds of syndicates known to deal in child sex.
Other measures to fight the trade should also include public education, community involvement and greater collaboration between governments and non-governmental groups, he added.
* Asean wages war on child sex tourism (The Straits Times, April 28)