Subject: AGE: UN probes flesh trade in East Timor


UN probes flesh trade in East Timor

July 2 2003

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

A United Nations official has confirmed that an investigation is under way in East Timor into prostitution and allegations of human trafficking. The probe follows claims by the Portuguese newspaper Expresso of a growing problem involving UN staff.

"We have places in Dili under surveillance and internal warnings have been issued to UN staff," spokesman Wilton Fonseca said. "It is being taken very seriously."

But he said the Expresso report was exaggerated and claims that there was a "growing problem with pedophilia" were false.

"The hotel-boat named in the story is not rented by the UN," Mr Fonseca said. "It is just a Dili hotel with the average quota of UN staff staying there."

Recent UN investigations have identified brothels in Dili catering to UN and other international staff, most offering female prostitution. There have also been allegations of pedophile rings but the UN spokesman said there was no evidence of a child-trafficking operation.

UN police found several minors when they raided a massage parlour earlier this year. The under-age girls said they had been transported from Bangkok and forced to work as prostitutes. They were freed and repatriated.

UN Singaporean policemen were found on the premises but they have not been disciplined, despite UN rules prohibiting staff from frequenting places of human trafficking.

The largest organised prostitution network is allegedly run from a Thai-owned hotel-boat for clients who are mainly UN personnel.

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