PETALING JAYA: One man booked a hotel room for a meet-up, and then was caught on camera saying he has had sexual relationships with girls as young as 13.
This was among the material gathered by The Starâ€™s R.AGE journalists who went undercover for these meetings.
Six months before paedophile Richard Huckle made global headlines, the R.AGE team had already started its undercover sting operation against sex predators.
During the period, R.AGE compiled material that included obscene images, inappropriate messages and hidden camera footage of the undercover journalists at work.
Malaysia does not have laws against â€œsexual groomingâ€, which refers to the process of gaining a childâ€™s trust for future sexual exploitation, even though statistics show it has been on the rise.
Mobile chat apps like WeChat and BeeTalk are the main tools for sex predators in Malaysia, based on Bukit Amanâ€™s statistics.
Since 2015, a whopping 80% of reported rape cases involved sex predators who started out online.
During a sting, R.AGE confronted one such predator, who was propositioning the undercover journalist on WeChat and sending photos of his penis.
â€œItâ€™s a numbers game,â€ said the 28-year-old postgraduate student who is a self-confessed sex addict.
â€œOn WeChat, you can search for people nearby, and filter them based on gender. After I filter out all the men, I just send messages to as many girls as possible.â€
The predators then start grooming those who reply to them. They would earn the trust of these children and gradually introduce sex into the conversations.
Another man claimed he is â€œan expert in massagesâ€ and that he had done it on at least two other girls below 15.
The situation has long weighed on Assistant Commissioner Ong Chin Lan, the Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) assistant principal director.
â€œIf we had grooming laws, the authorities might be able to arrest predators like Huckle early on,â€ said Ong.
â€œWe need to empower our law enforcement agencies.â€