~ Le ViÍt Nam, aujourd'hui. ~
The Vietnam News

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Child prostitution starting to appear in Vietnam

HANOI - Child prostitution is beginning to appear in Vietnam, and underground foreign paedophile rings are starting to tout the communist-ruled country as the next destination, an expert in the field said on Friday.
Christine Beddoe, tourism programme director for international group End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) Australia, said there was credible evidence to suggest foreign child sex tourists were active in Vietnam.

``There is really strong anecdotal evidence coming from Hoi An where it appears foreign females are abusing underage boys,'' she said.
Hoi An is a charming old former trading port situated near Danang in central Vietnam. Beddoe added that the northern mountain resort of Sapa was also being repeatedly mentioned from different sources who remark on child sex abuse mostly with young girls from the Hmong ethnic minority. Beddoe is running a 12-week Australian government-funded project to educate and alert grassroots tourism workers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to the dangers of child prostitution.

``It is very difficult for people (in Vietnam) to talk about child sex tourism existing in their own communities,'' Beddoe said. ``They say they know it happens in neighbouring countries and that they do not want that to happen in Vietnam.''
The scheme aims to produce education material and raise awareness among staff working for travel firms and hotels, and others involved in end delivery of tourism related services.

``There is recognition that if nothing is done (child sex tourism) will become a problem in Vietnam,'' Beddoe said.
Child prostitution in Thailand and Cambodia, which is much more widespread than in Vietnam, has been documented, and foreign paedophiles have been prosecuted.
Beddoe said Australian Federal Police based in Bangkok were now certain that known Australian paedophiles had been travelling to and operating in Vietnam.

Vietnam's illicit sex industry is booming and prostitutes are widely available throughout the country.
Nguyen Thi Hue, who heads campaigns to eradicate social ills in Vietnam, said recently the police had files on some 185,000 prostitutes nationwide, and that at one point last year some 30 percent of all sex workers in this country of 79 million people were thought to be under the age of 16.

Hanoi was determined to stamp out the problem, Beddoe said.
``I have absolutely no doubt the Vietnam Administration of Tourism supports a wider national campaign on the prevention of sex tourism including child sex tourism,'' she said.
There are no reliable statistics on child prostitution in Vietnam, but the police say the number of sex crimes in general marked annual increases in recent years.
Some 19 countries operate extraterritorial laws that can be used to convict people of child sex crimes committed on foreign soil. Neither Hanoi nor foreign courts have prosecuted foreign nationals for child sex crimes that occurred in Vietnam.

Reuters - June 10, 1999.