In a $74-million US State Department effort to curb human trafficking across 70 countries, Cambodia has the fifth-most number of projects and remains a "major source" of human trafficking, according to State Department documents.
Officials have said, though, that Cambodia's efforts to stop trafficking in recent years have been improving and that those improvements were one reason weighing in favor of granting Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy permission to visit Washington this week.
Hok Lundy met with authorities from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Monday, a Bureau spokesman said. He was scheduled to meet State Department officials Tuesday. His visit comes despite an outcry from human rights organizations that he himself is involved in human trafficking and other crimes.
A State Department official told VOA Khmer last week that officials would deliver a "tough, direct message" to Hok Lundy on Cambodia's human trafficking problem.
Cambodia had five anti-trafficking projects supported by US funds in 2006, putting the country behind Bulgaria, Mexico, Russia and India in number, according to the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
India, Mexico and Cambodia are part of President George W. Bush's $50-million Anti-Trafficking in Persons Initiative, "and are major source and destination countries for trafficking victims," according to the anti-trafficking office.
New-York based Human Rights Watch said in a statement last week that the State Department denied Hok Lundy a visa in 2006 because of his involvement in human trafficking.
"That decision was linked to a brothel raid in December 2004, following which Lundy reportedly ordered the release within hours of several traffickers before an investigation could be conducted," Human Rights Watch said.
Hok Lundy has denied those allegations.
State Department officials declined last week to speak specifically about the claims made against Hok Lundy, saying only that Cambodia had made strides in improving its human trafficking problem.
The US considers Cambodia a country that is "making significant efforts" to meet minimum standards of a US anti-trafficking law.
"The Government of Cambodia made significant progress in combating trafficking in persons" in 2006, according to the State Department's anti-trafficking office. "The National Police reported that as of September 2006, 58 traffickers and pimps had been turned over to the judiciary for prosecution."
The courts made at least 34 convictions, with up to 24-year sentences, according to the anti-trafficking office.
"Cambodia has modestly increased efforts to combat trafficking-related corruption, although punishment of offenders with appropriate prison sentences remains uneven," according to the anti-trafficking office. "In August 2006, three police officers of the Ministry of Interior's Anti-Trafficking in Persons Department were convicted of trafficking-related corruption. However, only one of the three was imprisoned, one officer remains at large, and the other remains in his position. The National Police reported three additional arrests of low-ranking military officers for trafficking-related crimes during 2006."