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A web resource for combating human trafficking


Cambodia is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant number of Cambodian women and children are trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia for labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Cambodian men are primarily trafficked to Thailand for labor exploitation in the construction and agricultural sectors, particularly the fishing industry. Cambodian children are trafficked to Vietnam and Thailand to work as street beggars. Cambodia is a transit and destination point for women from Vietnam who are trafficked for prostitution.[1]

Most adult and child victims were trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Estimates of the number of trafficking victims in the sex industry ranged from 2,000 to more than 3,000, approximately 80 percent of whom were Vietnamese women and girls. Some Vietnamese women and girls were trafficked through the country for exploitation in the commercial sex trade in other Asian countries.[2]

In December 2004, the Ministry of Interior's Anti-Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police raided a notorious Phnom Penh hotel, detaining 8 suspected traffickers and placing 83 women and girls from the hotel under NGO care. A day after the raid the suspects were released by police, and a mob of family members and other unidentified persons removed or caused to be released 91 women and girls from the NGO shelter, including the 83 women and girls taken from the hotel. The Government subsequently failed to protect the women and girls during the process of an investigation that was still pending at year's end.[3]

Cambodian Government Efforts

The Cambodian Government continued to refer victims to NGOs and international organizations with victim protection programs. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation operated two temporary shelters for victims, but the government relied primarily on foreign and domestic NGOs to provide shelter to victims. The Cambodian Government also supported an NGO that places trafficking victims in long-term shelters. Victims in Cambodia are not treated as criminals and have the right to seek legal action against traffickers, but seldom do.[4]

The government continued its efforts to raise awareness of trafficking by cooperating with numerous NGOs and international organizations. The Ministry of Women's Affairs (MWA) continued to carry out information campaigns, including grassroots meetings in key provinces. The MWA worked with IOM to expand a nationwide anti-trafficking information and advocacy campaign that included district-level meetings with government officials and the distribution of educational materials and videos. During the reporting period, the Anti-Trafficking Police Unit conducted an outreach program to warn high school students of the dangers of trafficking. The Ministry of Tourism produced pamphlets and advertisements warning tourists of the penalties for engaging in sex with minors, and conducted workshops for hospitality staff on how to identify and intervene in cases of trafficking or sexual exploitation of children.[5]

The Government has established mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on the plan and has established a Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection. There were specialized MOI anti-trafficking departments in 7 provinces and anti-trafficking units in the remaining 17 provinces. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to repatriate trafficked victims from Thailand to Cambodia and from Cambodia to Vietnam. However, repatriation to Vietnam continued to be a long and arduous process. In addition, the MOSVY worked with UNICEF and local NGOs to manage community-based networks aimed at preventing trafficking. The Ministry of Women's Affairs continued a public education campaign against trafficking, focusing on border provinces. In June 2003, the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thailand to pursue joint investigations of transnational traffickers.[6]

Nongovernmental & International Organizations' Efforts

Cambodia has a very active domestic and international NGO community working to combat trafficking.

In 2004, a local NGO reported that only 7 of the 150 trafficking suspects arrested during the year were successfully prosecuted by year's end, with 75 released for lack of evidence and the remainder awaiting trial. A legal advocacy NGO brought 50 trafficking cases to court during the year. Of the 14 cases that went to trial, convictions were obtained against 6 traffickers with sentences ranging from 2 years' to 20 years' imprisonment. Additionally, the convicted traffickers were ordered to pay $400 to $600 (1.6 million to 2.4 million riel) to each victim as compensation. There were no reports of cases settled out of court.[7]

International Efforts

In October 2004, Cambodia was one of six countries which participated in the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT), a regional agreement at the government level committing governments to prepare country-specific plans of action.

Areas for Improvement

Cambodia was placed on Tier 3 in the 2005 United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report for its lack of progress in combating severe forms of trafficking, particularly its failure to convict traffickers and public officials involved in trafficking. From late 2004 to May 2005, the Cambodian Government had failed to take effective action to ensure that those responsible for the raid on an NGO shelter for trafficking victims were held accountable and brought to justice. The Cambodian Government's failure to act calls into question Cambodia's commitment to combating human trafficking. Cambodia's anti-trafficking efforts remained hampered by systemic corruption and an ineffectual judicial system.

Penalties for trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation carry sentences of up to 20 years' imprisonment. The National Assembly will act soon on a draft anti-trafficking bill that would provide law enforcement and judicial officials with more powers to arrest and prosecute traffickers. In 2004, the Cambodian police reported 165 arrests but only 24 successful prosecutions. Despite the number of arrests, there were few actual convictions of traffickers. There was no available information on the length of sentences for trafficking-related cases. Systemic corruption and a weak judiciary remain the most serious impediments to the effective prosecution of traffickers. Senior Cambodian Government officials and their family members are reportedly involved in or profit from trafficking activities but there were no trafficking-related prosecutions of corrupt officials[8]

Cambodia was placed on Tier 3 on the 2005 United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report.

1 2005 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report
2 2004 US State Department Human Rights Report
3 2004 US State Department Human Rights Report
4 2005 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report
5 2005 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report
6 2004 US State Department Human Rights Report
7 2004 US State Department Human Rights Report
8 2005 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report

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