US Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from California, recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Cambodia. In an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer, Sanchez said she had wanted to look into the issues of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking.
“Cambodia is a destination,” she said. “That means that Westerners, including US citizens, go to Cambodia for the sex trade. Mostly because they can afford it—you know, because people are poor there—they use their money to buy in particular children and young women…to have sex with.”
In its attempt to curtail the crime, the US has helped Cambodia strengthen its laws, she said.
“We have helped Cambodia to make its judicial system better, so that it can in fact prosecute people,” she said. “We have put in an [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] unit and put in our immigration people to train [the authorities], to show them the signs for when these people come into Cambodia.”
The US also has officials from the Department of Homeland Security working with border and immigration authorities, as well as assistants to help the judiciary and court system.
The US also has an extradition treaty with Cambodia that helps bring perpetrators of sex crimes back to the US for prosecution if they do not face trial in Cambodia, she said.
“And we have investigators there,” she said. “We have people helping the local police be trained so we catch these people [beforehand], as they are trying to come into the country.”
Sanchez said the US was serious about prosecutions and would not attempt to alleviate sentences for US citizens found guilty of sex crimes.
Sanchez has worked on human trafficking issues at the US-Mexico border, as well as in the communities of Cambodians, Filipinos and Vietnamese in Orange Country, Calif., which she represents.
“So it is a big issue for me, an issue that I am passionate about, and I knew that there was a lot of this going on with respect to Cambodia, so I wanted to go to Cambodia on this trip,” she said.
Sanchez also looked into the US military’s role in the country and the region, demining operations and counterterrorism.