16 February 2004
Australia is going to station one of its police officers on the Indonesian island of Bali to advise and assist local law enforcement officials on pedophilia by Western tourists there. The move is a sign of the increasing cooperation between the two countries, but also a reflection of rising concern about transnational crime - particularly pedophilia - on Indonesia's most famous resort island.
When a former Australian diplomat named William Brown was arrested on Bali last month on charges of molesting Balinese children, it brought new attention to what observers say is a long-standing problem on the island: child abuse by foreign pedophiles.
Bali is not unique in the region: wealthy Western pedophiles have been traveling to Southeast Asia for years to prey on the children of impoverished communities, with Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam also being popular destinations.
Bali has had a relatively low profile, but Paul Dillon, a Canadian journalist who has done extensive research into the problem, says pedophilia there is widespread and not just in the major tourist areas. He says there is a more insidious problem in the villages of Bali's impoverished interior.
"You have situations where foreign pedophiles set up shop basically in these tiny little communities and over a period of weeks and months basically subvert the local population by providing everything from food and clothing to opportunities for the kids themselves, you know, educational opportunities, a chance to get out of the village an so on, all of which is very attractive to these impoverished families," he said.
Australia's decision to post a police officer on the island is a reflection of the importance Canberra places on stopping child sex tourism. The Australian government changed the law 10 years ago to enable Australian courts to prosecute pedophiles even if the crime was not committed on Australian soil.
The officer appointed to Bali has already arrived in Indonesia, and will shortly travel to Bali to take up his post.
Analysts also note that although there is a crisis with foreign pedophiles, Indonesia is also home to a massive domestic market for underage prostitutes, they say and any plan must look at ways to solve both problems.