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Cambodia Remains on US 'Watch List' for Trafficking

For the second year in a row, Cambodia remained on a State Department watch list for human trafficking, according to a report issued Tuesday in Washington.

The government has not made sufficient efforts to combat trafficking, especially where public officials were involved in the crime, the report said.

The US State Department's annual "Trafficking in Persons" report is its primary diplomatic tool for pressuring countries to improve their efforts to fight human trafficking.

Cambodia's failure to move off the watch list was due to insufficient efforts to meet US minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, a serious crime that is a form of slavery, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday at a press briefing to launch the report.

"More and more countries are coming to see human trafficking for what it is: a modern-day form of slavery that devastates families and communities around the world," Rice said.

While acknowledging some efforts made by the Cambodian government to fight the problem, the 2007 report cited a failure to increase efforts as a reason the country remained on the watch list, a space it shares regionally with China and Papua New Guinea.

"Cambodia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year because it failed to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly in addressing reports of public officials' complicity in trafficking," the report said.

Tier 1 countries fully meet US standards for fighting trafficking. Tier 2 countries are making efforts to meet those standards. And Tier 3 countries are not making notable efforts. Watch list countries are expected to improve year on year and to demonstrate a willingness to meet US standards.

Tier 3 countries in Asia include Burma, Malaysia and North Korea.

Cambodia dropped to Tier 3 in 2005, and has since failed to reach Tier 2.

Countries are not expected to stay on the watch list, Mark Lagon, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said at Tuesday's briefing.

"Tier 2 watch list is not supposed to become a parking lot for governments lacking the will or interest to stop exploitation and enslavement on their soil," he said.

The report cites "minimal progress" in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and limited assistance to victims of trafficking as reasons Cambodia remained on the watch list. It also cited reports that public officials were involved in trafficking, making government efforts to stop the crime difficult.

Cambodia has also failed to pass an anti-trafficking law that has been in the drafting stage for seven years, the report noted.

The report did, however, acknowledge the Ministry of Interior's Anti-Trafficking Police Unit for efforts to educate school children on their rights and the risks of trafficking.

The report called those prevention efforts "modest."