Cambodia jails Japanese man for sex with minor

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A Japanese man has been sentenced to prison for buying sex with a 13-year-old Vietnamese girl in Cambodia.

Atsushi Kato, 41, from Aichi Prefecture in Japan, was sentenced by a Cambodian court on Wednesday (October 13) to seven years in prison and to be deported after serving his sentence.

Kato was also ordered to pay the victim 400,000 riel (US$100) in compensation, the Agence France Presse (AFP) reported. Kato was arrested in September last year.

"The verdict is just for the girl in terms of the imprisonment sentence but the compensation does not reflect the damage she has suffered and seems insulting," Samleang Seila, who heads Action Pour Les Enfant in Cambodia, told Thanh Nien Weekly by email. The human rights organization had provided the Vietnamese victim with a lawyer.

But the verdict sends a message across to traffickers and brothel owners and advances the cause of children's rights, he said.

Seila said the Japanese paid the girl for sex at a brothel but he said he did not know she was a minor. "Later, the brothel was raided and some of the girl prostitutes were rescued and placed in a government aftercare facility... The authorities were informed of the Japanese national's contact and arrested the man when he was coming to visit the girl.

"In general, most trafficked victims to [Cambodian] brothels are Vietnamese," Seila said.

"Some are trafficked or sold from local families to the brothel and others are trafficked from Vietnam with promises of a good job."

He said job scarcity and "statelessness" in Vietnam forces some Vietnamese people to migrate to Cambodia and also allow their children to go to Cambodia and find a job. "This factor exposes children to human trafficking traps."

"They are also promised a job in Cambodia by traffickers and thus children with or without their family come to Cambodia and end up being sold or trafficked," Seila said.

AFP reports that "Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for pedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes since 2003 or deporting them to face trial in their home countries."

Seila said Vietnam and Cambodia should work "closely with each other to strengthen border controls and ensure children are not trafficked; and blind migration is discouraged." Both sides should take tough action to punish criminals who sell children to brothels, he added.

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