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More Trafficking Prosecutions Needed: Groups

Two organizations that fight human trafficking have called on the government to seek more prosecutions and convictions of offenders in the sex trade, claiming a stronger court system would act as a deterrent of the crime.

“If they could work on 60 percent to 70 percent of the human trafficking cases brought in, there would be fewer offenders, because no one wants to be in jail,” said Mam Somaly, a renowned activist for Afesip, who was herself the victim of trafficking.

Samneang Sila, country director of Action Pour Les Enfants, said that not only traffickers needed prosecuted, but also hotel or guesthouse owners and motorcycle or other taxi drivers that collude with them.

Luis CdeBaca, the director of the US State Department’s anti-trafficking office, told reporters Wednesday that the US wants to see a higher number of trafficking convictions, after three suspected pedophiles were sent back to the US.

The US downgraded Cambodia’s anti-trafficking efforts in 2008, putting the country again on a “watch list” of nation’s not doing enough to combat the crime.

According to the agency’s 2009 Trafficking in Persons report, Cambodia only managed 12 convictions of trafficking offenders in 2008, a sharp drop from the 52 convictions obtained the year before. The report also noted the government’s seeming inability to prosecute public officials implicated in trafficking.

Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said police had arrested many criminals in human trafficking, though he did not have exact figures.

“But we agree that sometimes the suspects have not been charged, or are even released,” he said, “due to a lack of sufficient evidence to hold the accused accountable.”