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21 March 2013

Protecting children from exploitation and abuse focus of INTERPOL meeting in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand – Providing increased insight into and understanding of the issue and scale of crimes against children across Southeast Asia was the focus of an INTERPOL Specialists Group meeting in Bangkok this week.

Bringing together some 180 experts from law enforcement bodies, non-governmental organizations, private sector organizations and academia from 28 countries, the first INTERPOL Southeast Asia working party meeting (19 – 21 March) covered a range of topics including victim identification, Internet-facilitated crimes against children, child sex offenders and violent crimes against children.

A key component of the three-day meeting was the provision of access to the INTERPOL Victim Identification laboratory (ViLab) to participants in order for them to assist efforts in identifying victims and locations. 

The ViLab is a mobile investigative tool that allows trained users to view child sexual abuse images – which can be sanitized depending on the audience – for ongoing and unsolved investigations.

A train-the-trainer session was held for officers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, while information provided by delegates at the Bangkok meeting has led to important intelligence being exchanged and which will be used to move investigations forward.

The sharing of knowledge, experience and best practice, supported by enhanced cooperation between criminal justice agencies within and across borders, is recognized as vital in combating travelling child sex offenders and protecting victims.

Organized by the INTERPOL Liaison Office in Bangkok in cooperation with the Royal Thai Police, the meeting comes under the umbrella of Project Childhood, an initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children – mainly in the travel and tourism sectors – in the Greater Mekong sub-region. The project is funded by Australian AID (AusAID) and focuses on Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, building on Australia's long-term support for programmes that better protect children and prevent their abuse.

The project is being implemented in two complementary pillars: the Protection Pillar, a partnership between UNODC and INTERPOL, and the Prevention Pillar, implemented by World Vision.

Greater regional and international cooperation is key to bringing an end to child exploitation, and INTERPOL is working to equip local law enforcement with the tools and skills necessary for fighting this growing type of crime.  Related to that is the need for greater understanding of the effect of the Internet and communication technologies.  This issue was addressed during presentations by some of the most technically experienced officers from around the world.  Project Childhood plans to offer training opportunities to improve intelligence gathering and to improve the use of INTERPOL’s tools including the International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) image database.