Nearly 50 representatives from Mekong region countries met in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to find better ways of cooperating to prevent human trafficking.
Plans include more informal cooperation between regional police, formal cooperation on legal structures and improved victims support agencies.
An estimated 20,000 Cambodians are trafficked throughout the region each year. Some are trafficked into the sex trade or are forced into labor on fishing boats.
Late last year, some 60 Cambodians who had been trafficked to Thai fishing vessels were repatriated from Indonesia after their boats were seized in Indonesian waters.
The myriad forms of trafficking make it “difficult to be profiled in just one way,” said Lisa Rende Taylor, an officer for the UN Interagency on Human Trafficking. “Cambodians can be easily trafficked and exploited.”
The regional officials will meet over a plan of action covering 2011 to 2013 “to identify gaps in current responses” to trafficking in the region and address them, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said at the opening of the meeting.
Chiv Phally, an anti-trafficking official at the Ministry of Interior, told reporters that cross-border trafficking has decreased in recent years but authorities are continuing to fight the crime.
International cooperation is important to improving prosecutions of perpetrators and helping victims, he said. “We do not want to have impunity in human trafficking cases.”