Although human-trafficking cases dealt with by the Ministry of Interior decreased significantly in 2013, suggesting progress was being made in tackling the crime, trafficking in persons continues to be a major challenge for the government, the ministry said in its annual report on Tuesday.
According to a presentation made by ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Tuesday, the number of human trafficking cases cracked down upon by authorities decreased from 135 in 2012 to 93 in 2013.
The number of suspects sent to court dropped from 168 to 116, while the number of trafficked persons rescued was cut in half, going from 523 to 256.
“Even though crackdowns on human and sexual trafficking cases has gone down, it is still happening and it [presents] a challenge for society, [this includes] the exploitation of women and children, and in particular migrant workers and trafficked brides leaving the country,” Sopheak said.
According to the report, 482,160 Cambodians left to work abroad last year, with 355,525 of those doing so legally and 15,298 being under-age.
Moeun Tola, labour program head at the Community Legal Education Center, said that cases of human trafficking had only fallen due to a decrease in complaints, rather than the fact that trafficking was actually being tackled effectively.
“In fact, the situation of human trafficking is still a major problem.… This is because our Cambodian workers still need to [try to] go abroad to earn higher wages,” he said.
Choun Chamrong, head of women and children’s rights at rights group ADHOC, said that woman and children were most at risk from trafficking, though Cambodian men were still often trafficked as fishermen.
Pich Vanna, director of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office, said that workers who crossed the border illegally were often helpless if problems arose abroad.
A 2013 US State Department report found that the government did “not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”.