ABC News, like other traditional media organizations, has been slow to move on the ACORN undercover video stories (although reporter Jake Tapper has shown signs that he’s interested). But on “Nightline” this week they ran an excellent undercover report about the types of child exploiters that the ACORN housing facilitators would have helped by letting them ply their trade without detection. The focus of the story is Cambodia, where a NGO called APLE (“Action Pour Les Enfants”) combats sexual exploitation of children by going undercover to capture and record evidence from predators and victims, then helping law enforcement conduct sting operations. Sounds similar to what James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles did.
APLE gave incredible access to ABC reporter Dan Harris (VIDEO), who confronts a few American “sex travelers” about their crimes and the evidence against them. One, Harvey Johnson, was teaching English in Phnom Penh and therefore had easy access to children. There are several things spoken on the video report that just make you cringe, and others that are tremendously heartbreaking. In a couple instances mothers, unaware they are being recorded, offer up their early-teen daughters for sale to Harris, where he could name his price.
Having been with friends on Christian missions to Southeast Asia (including Cambodia) twice in the last two and a half years, this rings absolutely true. Children often approach Westerners eagerly to try out the English they are learning, because they believe it is a ticket for them out of poverty. We saw a mother on our last visit a year ago ask my friend to take her son from her — during a church service! And seeing silver-haired Westerners walking, uh, “romantically”, with clearly underage girls in Bangkok and Phnom Penh was not uncommon. The kids are easy to exploit.
Harris notes towards the end of his report (the video is broken into three pieces, so stick with it) that, because of the loss of so much of the Cambodian population (1.7 million out of nearly 8 million) during Pol Pot’s reign, there is a morality vacuum in the country. The average age is somewhere around 21. I’m sure that’s part of the reason, but other countries have similar demographics and it’s not because of genocide. Corruption and failure to punish evil are facts of life in the Third World.
We need more brave ones like James, Hannah and APLE who go beyond traditional thinking, do their own work, and don’t wait or whine for government or the “mainstream media” to “do something” about these problems. It is easier than ever now to gather information on your own, blast it into the public domain, and appeal to those of us on this earth with a conscience.
This is slavery, continued, with a sickening slant. It has not been eliminated. Churches, ministries, activists, journalists, and others need to get off the sidelines. It’s tough to watch, but everyone needs to see the tears of parents and shame of children who have been victimized by this trade. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.
ABC has helpfully provided names and links of organizations and ministries in Cambodia fighting trafficking and helping victims. There are many others that work on the issue in other countries and globally. Google searches bring up many of them.