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Cambodia Remains on US ‘Watch List’ for Human Trafficking

Cambodian migrant workers carry their belongings as they walk to cross the border at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew, June 15, 2014.

Cambodian migrant workers carry their belongings as they walk to cross the border at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew, June 15, 2014.

Cambodia remains on a US watch list of countries that need to do more to combat human trafficking.

The US issued its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report Friday, rating countries around the world on their attempts to fight the crime. Cambodia was rated a Tier 2 watch list country.

“Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the report says. “The government of Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so.

“Although numerous forms of human trafficking continued to occur in Cambodia, the government prosecuted and convicted fewer trafficking offenders and identified fewer victims than it did in the previous year,” the report says.

“Endemic corruption at all levels of the Cambodian government continues to severely limit the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding traffickers accountable,” the report says.

During the reporting period, the government reported investigating 35 suspected cases of trafficking but only 10 sex trafficking cases. The number of convictions in such cases decreased from last year.

Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said Cambodia is trying to curb the practice of trafficking.

“We have laws, policies, action plans, national and inter-ministerial mechanisms and cooperation with civil society and involved countries to combat human trafficking,” he said. “I believe our efforts have not declined, as we always deem it as our priority.”

The report put neighboring Thailand as a Tier 3 country, a significant downgrade, due in part to practices of forced labor in its fishing industry, where many poor Cambodians end up.

Cambodians are also at risk of sex trafficking, domestic servitude and beggar rings, or forced labor in agriculture and industry. Children are at risk, too, with forged documents that falsify their ages, facilitating trafficking, the report says.

Cambodia has been a Tier 2 watch list country for years, with little change.

Ny Chakrya, lead investigator for the rights group Adhoc, says the report has become a “weak” alert that the government does not take seriously.

Other Tier 2 countries include Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. Joining Thailand on the Tier 3 list was Malaysia, another major destination country for trafficked Cambodians.

Yem Ponharith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said human trafficking in Cambodia remains “a serious issue, which reflect systematic corruption in society.”