NEARLY one-quarter of Cambodians deported from Thailand through the Poipet border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province are victims of trafficking, a new UN study indicates.
The study, by researchers with the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, underscores the struggles the Kingdom faces in quantifying the scope of a problem that places thousands of Cambodian migrants at risk each year.
Researchers interviewed 400 deportees returned through the Poipet border crossing last August. Twenty-three percent, almost a quarter of those interviewed, were judged to have been trafficked – meaning that they were recruited to work abroad, then coerced, abducted or deceived into situations to which they did not consent.
Most of the respondents reported experiencing problems: Half claimed to have been cheated by their employers, 12 percent said they were not allowed to leave their workplaces, and 30 percent said they were never paid any money for their labour.
Researchers found that roughly 40 percent of those interviewed reported no troubles during their time abroad.The as-yet-unpublished study suggests that many who have fallen prey to human traffickers are falling through the cracks.
All of those interviewed were identified as illegal migrants in Thailand and then deported. None had been recognised by officials as human-trafficking victims, said Lim Tith, the national project coordinator for UNIAP in Cambodia.
“These victims have received little assistance or attention from authorities in both countries,” he said. “Based on the law, they deserve assistance as victims of human trafficking.”
Another problem highlighted by the study is the fact that there were few supports in place for those who had been returned to Cambodia – leaving many vulnerable to future trafficking.
Bith Kimhong, the director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Department at the Ministry of Interior, said the UNIAP trafficking rate seemed too high. He said many of those interviewed may have been illegal migrants but not trafficking victims.
Nevertheless, he said, authorities are placing a renewed emphasis on trafficking.
“Recently, our border police educated people at the checkpoint about working outside the country,” he said. “And we are investigating to arrest brokers to punish them according to the law.”
Estimates used by UNIAP indicate there were 240,000 Cambodian migrants working in Thailand last year. According to the Ministry of Interior, roughly 89,000 were sent back through the Poipet border crossing alone.