THE Cambodian government has demonstrated “modest progress” in combating human trafficking during the past year, the US state department said in an interim assessment of official anti-trafficking efforts, but it also warned that key obstacles remain.
In the report, released on February 24, the US government recognised anti-trafficking successes, including the conviction of four traffickers since April 2009.
But “the government did not prosecute, convict, or criminally punish any public officials complicit in trafficking”, the report states. “Impunity, endemic corruption, and related rent-seeking behavior continue to be an impediment to progress in combating trafficking in persons.”
Samleang Seila, executive director of Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said the Ministry of Interior had made “great efforts” in 2009 to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation. But he said that many trafficking suspects still enjoy a degree of legal impunity, often receiving lenient sentences.
“This is something that is not consistent in the judicial system and may allow these officials to enjoy light sentences in Cambodia,” he said.
Ten Borany, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection, said officials had committed offences in the past, but that the authorities had been successfully weeding out such individuals.
“We have cracked down more on these cases and now there are much fewer of them,” he said.
However, others said the assumptions of the Kingdom’s 2008 Anti-Trafficking Law, which adopted an “abolitionist approach” to the Cambodian sex industry, had in some cases worsened the situation.
“This approach has never proven successful, anywhere,” said Sara Bradford, a human rights consultant and advocate for sex workers’ rights.
“Since the implementation of the law I cannot recall a time where I felt the government gained any ground in properly and ethically enforcing the law.”