Sixteen Cambodia brides and maids held in abusive conditions in China and other countries in the region have been rescued and repatriated home.
The returned women were rescued as part of a government anti-trafficking drive following its classification as a high-risk country for human trafficking for the second year in a row.
Seven brides were returned from China, four en route to China in Vietnam and three girls between 13 and 16 years old were rescued in Thailand. One maid was returned from Egypt and another from China.
In total, the government said that 16 women and girls were brought back to Cambodia from abusive conditions abroad in the past week.
Foreign ministry officials could not be reached for comment on Monday and Chou Bun Eng, vice president of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking declined to comment.
The US State Department’s 2018 Trafficking Report, released in June, said the low rank given to Cambodia was due to impunity for offenders, improper prosecution of the perpetrators and poor support for rescued women.
The report said that 986 trafficking victims had been repatriated from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and China in 2017 alone, an increase of more than 150 compared to 2016.
Chharn Sokunthea, head of local rights group Adhoc’s children, women and anti-trafficking project, said survivors also needed care from the state upon repatriation, which was currently lacking.
“We should not just send them home and leave them. We need to figure out how to reduce or prevent them from going back,” she said. “China’s cases which I have experience with included the most suffering. They married Chinese nationals and returned home with both physical and psychological problems.”
Brokers use a number of trafficking routes to China, she added, with Laos and Vietnam being the main avenues.
“I found that intervention in Chinese cases is very complicated. I found that the cases are increasing, it is not decreasing,” she said. “First, because of the brokers, and secondly, punishments for perpetrators.”