Two short documentaries on human trafficking are being screened in Phnom Penh—one featuring men tricked to work in slave-like conditions aboard a fishing boat and one that describes the lives of women sent as brides to China.
Both films were produced by USAID’s office to combat human trafficking and are being shown at the Bophana Center in the capital. They are also being used to raise awareness in communities that could be targeted by traffickers.
“I decided to marry a Chinese man because my family is poor,” says a woman in the film “Bride With a Price Tag.” “My hope was that after I was married, I would have a better life and more money to help my family. This dream never came true.”
Lim Mony, deputy chief of the women and children’s rights program at the rights group Adhoc, said many women are tricked into such schemes by brokers they know.
Women can be mistreated not only by their husbands, but by his family members. They are often overworked by the family or the husband. Some women are tricked into marrying old men, or mentally or physically disabled men.
In the film, a woman describes a neighbor who convinced her mother into marrying her to a Chinese man. She was forced to choose a husband or face the prospect of work in a brothel, she says.
Sara Piazzano, the head of USAID’s Countering Trafficking in Persons project, said learning the stories of victims “is a very effective way to understand the risks.”
“And also it helps to develop a positive attitude towards victims by understanding their stories,” she said. “Reintegration is very challenging for a victim who has lived through a traumatic experience, and it is necessary to have the support of families and community.”
In target areas, communities with more knowledge about trafficking have better attitudes towards victims, she said.
Lim Mony said such awareness is important for knowing the risks out there. These kinds of films should be shown on state TV, at times when people watch it, to help get the message out, she said.
Sao Phany, a victim from Prey Veng province, stayed in China for six months before she was able to return to Cambodia. She warned women to think twice before marrying or working abroad.
“They were very talented when they tricked us,” she said. “You would never know.”
She was deceived by a family member, and she received little sympathy when she returned home, she said.
“No one wants to be cheated and have such issues,” she said. “Please do not mock or laugh at us.” Had she seen the documentary beforehand, she would have made a different choice, she said. “If I had seen it, I would not have faced such a thing.”
The second film at Bophana, “Where Is the Horizon?,” features three men discussing the factors that compelled them to find work as fishermen. They went through a recruitment company that sent hundreds of men to work on fishing vessels.
One of them, 22-year-old Ki Pheakdy, worked on a boat for three years. “I was forced to work even when I was sick,” he says. “They treated us like animals.” He was promised $200 a month that was to be deposited in an account back home. Three years passed before he knew he’d been deceived. When his mother checked the account three months in, there was nothing, he says. “She told me there was not even $1, or even 100 Khmer riel, in the account.”
He was recruited by Giant Ocean International Fishery, a licensed agency that has sent hundreds of Cambodian workers to labor aboard fishing vessels far and wide. The company was eventually shut down, its Taiwanese employer arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
In recent weeks, more than 200 men have been rescued from forced labor in Indonesia.
Piazzano said changing attitudes and behaviors is key to curbing trafficking. “The commitment in fighting human trafficking means also a commitment to fighting the mindsets that lead to violence and exploitation, a commitment that all have to take,” she said. “Policies alone cannot solve the problem.”