Cambodia has remained for two years on a US State Department watch list of countries that have not done enough to curb human trafficking. The State Department's "Trafficking in Persons" report is issued every year, and with six months to go before Cambodia is evaluated again, VOA Khmer spoke to Cambodia's controversial national police commissioner, Gen. Hok Lundy, who has found himself accused in the past of involvement in human trafficking. He spoke by phone from Phnom Penh.
Q. Gen. Hok Lundy, the US is concerned over corruption, with police associated with brothels or taking bribes from human traffickers. Has the Ministry of Interior or the national police taken any action against these crimes?
A. On this issue, I wish to state that, to strengthen the prevention of human trafficking of women and children, the head of government and the Ministry of Interior has taken action. We have broadened our public work, and the government has created a task force, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng as the chief. So now in every province there is an administration. And in the provinces, we also set up the governor to be in the task force, as the [provincial] chief, in order that it will go smoothly. So I believe that in this work not only the police or military police will act as officers of justice, if they are supervised clearly. And if police and military police, or any individual who is associated with or commits bribery, with a mastermind of human trafficking, that person will not only be fired from his position, but we will additionally step in to punish him. I am also in the task force and have deeply assessed, we have not seen anything impressive yet, but this work is being received for its high results in the prevention of human trafficking.
Q. So are, there are some foreigners who come to Cambodia for sexual entertainment. Apparently, other countries should join in the prevention of trafficking. Has there already been much assistance?
A. Yes. This is also a problem in Cambodia. Based on the progress of the economy, the country has developed. Now more tourists are coming to Cambodia, and more of them are involved in cases of debauchery. With such cases, we also take legal action. We must arrest them for prosecution. And regarding some of these countries, so far the US, there was an American who was involved in this kind of debauchery. We arrested him and prosecuted him, and the US government asked the head of government—and Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed—to deport him to be tried in the US. And in support in the prevention of human trafficking, there is also assistance from some countries. The US also helps, through [non-governmental organizations]. So we've seen that cooperation throughout the world, especially the US, to help through both funding and charity. For example, victims who suffer from trafficking: they are rescued after they have been cheated into being trafficked, and they are educated about living in society and Cambodian culture. We know we can send them back home in order to let them have a proper job.
Q. What precautions can Cambodians take against trafficking?
A. The main thing is that in trafficking, some of our people in some places, because the level of understanding is still low, are cheated. Children are brought to find a job, [promised] good income, and sometimes the mastermind gives [parents] money in advance, depositing $1,000 or $2,000, to take their children. This is something that, needing money, [parents] just follow, and they don't deeply analyze how the mastermind is cheating them. So I wish to appeal to people in every local community, both in towns and in remote areas, that before they decide to let their children or daughter go to work in various factories in towns or provinces far away from their homes, they must strictly consider this, and watch for this. Is it someone selecting [workers] in the proper way, such as a company, or just the master trafficker? Because nowadays, in fact, as our country develops in industry, with enterprises like garment factories, people's children will have jobs to do. So among those who offer jobs, there are good, right, but in this case there is some small part of that which is an opportunist, who will cheat them and bring them into forced labor and the sex trade. So please do not be cheated.
Q. Cambodia is now on the US State Department's watch list of countries that have failed to do enough to curb trafficking. Because of government efforts, do you think Cambodia will be better rated by the State Department's "Trafficking in Persons" report this year?
A. I think that government leader Samdech Hun Sen has the direction to strengthen our work in preventing human trafficking, in trafficking of women and children, by setting up the task force for the government, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng. I believe with this leadership, the work will move effectively, and I believe that it will reduce human trafficking in 2008. Even if this preventative measure does not have a big image, it has results, by paying attention to the end of 2007, we have seen that the measures and crackdown have done a lot. This has led to the arrest of some foreigners and masterminds who have committed these crimes. We've arrested them. So I believe this issue [of trafficking] will be in decline.