Stories of physical and sexual abuse, beatings and starvation by employers of Cambodian maids have recently been in the news.
Modern-day slavery is alive and well, and it is happening to our Cambodian people.
Human trafficking, the buying and selling of human beings, is a connection of evil, as traffickers perform all acts of cruelty. The International Labour Organization (ILO) puts the global number of slaves at between 10 and 30 million worldwide. The levels of slavery and people-trafficking today are greater than at any point in history.
Human trafficking can be compared to a criminal enterprise; greed, quick returns on investment and government ineffectiveness.
The United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime reports that human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world (US$15.5 billion), ranking third behind illegal drugs and trafficking in arms.
People in rural and remote regions of Cambodia are often the victims, as they can be easily kidnapped, with next to no chance of the crime ever being properly investigated, as one of the main problems is the issue of identification of victims.
Because of Cambodia’s image as a “cheap labour” country, traffickers go to the provinces and recruit people in the countryside.
Poverty and lack of education are the reasons why many of them are easily influenced and agree to leave Cambodia to work in other countries, after being promised by their recruiters that they will make a lot of money.
Organisations like Licadho, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, are one of the main sources of information on human rights in Cambodia.
Their main responsibilities are to monitor, document and investigate human-rights violations and violations made against women and children, and provide assistance through interventions with local authorities.
In addition, Adhoc, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, founded by former political prisoners in 1991, provides free legal assistance, empowers people to defend their rights and advocates for human rights.
Halting human trafficking requires the will of governments, and governments around the world.
Last week, the Cambodian government, in co-operation with Malaysian authorities and the International Organisation for Migration, sent four Cambodian maids back to Cambodia. A representative of Adhoc stated that the families of the victims had filed complaints with NGOs.
But there are more trafficked victims, many more, and the government needs to pay much more attention to this issue.
Why don’t we create jobs in Cambodia, instead of exporting our labour overseas? The prime minister has stated this several times, so why isn’t the government following his orders?
Cambodian maids are being treated like animals instead of human beings. The effects and aftermath of the victims are the concerns, as many are physically and psychologically traumatised.
Many organisations are raising awareness and confronting the injustice of human trafficking, but it takes the government to intervene by creating jobs and vocational training programs in which the much-needed skills in hospitality, construction and maintenance industries can be applied.
Many can learn these skills and don’t have to go overseas to work. They can stay in Cambodia and be closer to their families and friends.
It’s time to do more and defend our human rights, as people are our country’s most precious commodity.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
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