Cambodia remains on a watch list at the US State Department, for failing to do enough to combat human trafficking. In its annual Trafficking in Persons report, the State Department kept Cambodia a “tier 2” country.
“While the government continued to prosecute and convict traffickers, including one case involving the forced labor of Cambodian men on commercial fishing vessels, it failed to increase overall efforts to combat all forms of human trafficking from the previous year,” the State Department said in a statement.
The report cites corruption, insufficient funding and ineffective support for victims—including fishermen trapped in slave-like conditions aboard Thai fishing vessels—as reasons for the tier-2 status.
“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 continued to identify victims and refer them to NGOs, but overall victim protection remained inadequate.”
The government enacted an anti-trafficking law in 2008, but outreach via a national committee has been poorly funded, the report says.
Chou Bun Eng, head of the government’s anti-trafficking committee, admitted the government lacks funding, but he said it does work with NGO partners to help victims.
“The government efforts will continue, which means we are not working to get rank, but for our people,” she said. “Whenever an issue happens, the government continues to combat it.” That includes a national strategy with 22 government institutions, she said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, said human trafficking remains an issue for Cambodia, especially men trafficked into the fishing industry. Low wages within Cambodia helps traffickers lure many people abroad, including at least 1 million Cambodians in Thailand, he said.
“There are many issues, the ring leaders have not been arrested yet, especially in Thailand,” he said. “As the report says, every province in Cambodia is the source of trafficking.” That means numerous towns are empty of adults, leaving the elderly to care for the young.