/** labr.global: 410.0 **/
** Topic: Sex Tourists Prey On Sri Lankan Children **
** Written 9:03 PM Jan 13, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <email@example.com>
Subject: Sex Tourists Prey On Sri Lankan Children
Colombo - IT IS one of the most enchanting places on earth. Children play beach cricket as the surf laps around the palm-fringed shores of Sri Lanka. European tourists laze in the sun drinking from coconut shells. But many come for a more sinister attraction: to buy children for sex.
Lying off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka has become a prime location for European paedophiles. They are drawn to the island by a thriving trade in children controlled by local pimps. Some charge as little as z4 for sex with a child.
As other Asian countries try to crack down on the traffic, so-called "Boymen" (the local word for middle-aged European sex tourists) scour the beaches for children to abuse.
In Negombo, a once idyllic resort about 30 miles north of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, evidence of the trade was inescapable. Suren, a pimp who controls the paedophile rings, was one of the most popular people on the beach. That day, he had just supplied two boys to two German tourists.
Suren, 25, is an old hand at child prostitution. At 14 he was seduced by a local Swiss resident who gave him drugs to make him compliant. Now he pimps to feed his drug habit.
"Some policemen encourage us to go with foreigners," he said. "They say we should go with the foreigner, open the door of the room and lie naked on the bed. If we do that, they say they will [carry out a] raid, and if they get 20,000 rupees from the foreigner, they will give us 5,000."
Not all the child abusers are tourists. Some like it so much that they stay on. Dozens of resident foreigners have opened businesses near poor villages and use the children of their neighbours as sexual partners.
Pointing to one villa, Suren spoke of Jim, an Englishman. "He likes to take three boys to bed with him at night," he said. Around the next block was Guy, an Australian. "He makes the boys sniff cocaine, and he takes photographs to sell abroad," said Suren. Next door was Jan, a Dutchman. "One of the boys had to go to hospital after he had sex with him."
The abuse has spread to institutions. Two Sri Lankan orphanages are under investigation for possible links with European paedophile rings. Two members of staff at a prestigious fee-paying school in the southern town of Galle have been arrested and charged with supplying pupils to sex tourists.
However, high-profile police patrols of beaches favoured by paedophiles have done little to stop the trade. The pimps and tourists move up the coast. Mohamed Nizam, head of the police force's new child abuse desk in Colombo, admitted some of his men took bribes.
Yet some progress has been made. After a conference in Stockholm last year on the exploitation of children, Sri Lanka changed its law to provide for up to 20 years in jail for child abuse offenders. The Swiss man who seduced Suren and then used him as his personal pimp is expected to be charged under this law.
Dubbed the king of Negombo by locals, the Swiss national owns four factories and is a friend of government ministers and high-ranking police officers. He has provided jobs and given donations to schools, buying silence from his victims. "The case has been known to everyone in Negombo for at least five or six years," said Maureen Seneviratne of Peace, a group campaigning against child abusers. "Nobody wanted to act because he has so much powerful support."
Father Pinto, a priest who runs a rehabilitation centre for child abuse victims in Negombo, has received death threats. He was pessimistic that such "big fish" would ever be brought to justice. "He is being protected by this government," Pinto said. "He has given money to the election campaign and is buying a lot of people."
Four weeks ago Gunther Platzdash, a German charged with abusing small boys, was released on bail after his 18th court appearance when he insisted on a retrial with a German translator. Platzdash advertised Sri Lanka's "attractions" in a German gay contact magazine and offered to arrange "two double rooms with boys, balcony, on the beach, for DM7, with breakfast".
The police are not helped by a legal system that requires visual evidence of the crime. Platzdash dismissed the charges against him because "nobody has seen me in my house having sex with boys". He added: "Anyway, the boys like us foreigners."
Despite new laws to enable European countries to charge returning paedophiles, there have been few prosecutions. Martin Staebler, who attended the Stockholm conference on behalf of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, called for countries such as Britain and Germany to send their own detectives to investigate child abuse by their nationals.
"The more evidence we have, the more court cases we will have," he said. "These people will know that they can't go to Sri Lanka because there are people out there watching them."
Until this happens, Suren will continue to ply his trade. At 4pm business was just beginning. Quite openly, Suren approached a German regular on the beach and offered him a boy for 250 rupees (z4. The German refused. He said it was too much money.