Human trafficking in Cambodia has continued unabated this year and ministries need to strengthen their enforcement of laws to prevent the situation from getting worse, Interior Minister and National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking head Sar Kheng said yesterday.
Addressing some 125 officials from the ministries of labour, social affairs, women’s affairs and justice at an anti-trafficking workshop, Kheng said law enforcement to prevent both labour and sex trafficking was falling short.
The critique comes less than a week after Kheng acknowledged government officials were colluding with human traffickers rather than protecting their vulnerable victims.
“Gaps of implementation … should be corrected immediately, since it is the key to the solution and response to the victims,” he said yesterday.
The dire assessment was shared by a number of officials yesterday, though problems appeared to outnumber potential solutions.
Minister of Social Affairs Vong Soth said a total of 202 trafficking victims from both Thailand and Vietnam were receiving support, and that a rehabilitation centre was being built in Poipet to help future victims.
However, he said, the lack of state centres to support victims was problematic, as was a lack of funding and the fact that victims appeared to have lost faith in the justice system, a sentiment echoed by Chou Bun Eng, deputy director of the national anti-trafficking committee.
“Though there are many laws, the enforcement has not made the crime decrease, and that happens again and again to more victims, who rarely receive compensation for the damage,” she said.
Ministry of Justice deputy official Khiev Sophany said human-trafficking cases had worsened in 2016, with 200 cases this year, compared to just 105 last year, according to committee figures. She also acknowledged obstacles in encouraging victims to participate in court proceedings to bring their captors to justice.
Minister of Labour Ith Samheng, meanwhile, admitted that “inactiveness inspecting private recruitment agents leads to exploitation and labour trafficking”, despite the ministry’s efforts to train more inspectors.
Moeun Tola, of labour rights NGO Central, was not at the workshop but agreed the government response was “still too slow”, and urged a a more nuanced approach from authorities in dealing with traumatised victims and their families.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley