Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 250k Cambodians subject to forced labour or marriage, report finds

250k Cambodians subject to forced labour or marriage, report finds

Fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport after being repatriated from East Timor, where they escaped from slave-like conditions aboard a Thai fishing boat.
Fishermen arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport after being repatriated from East Timor, where they escaped from slave-like conditions aboard a Thai fishing boat. Vireak Mai

250k Cambodians subject to forced labour or marriage, report finds

Cambodia has the third-highest prevalence rate for modern slavery in the world, trailing only North Korea and Uzbekistan, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016, released this morning by the Walk Free Foundation.

Using data gathered as part of the annual Gallup World Poll, Walk Free Foundation determined that as many as 256,800 Cambodians – 1.65 per cent of the population – are currently subject to forced marriage or labour.

However, in terms of sheer numbers, Cambodia is far eclipsed by larger countries such as India (home to an estimated 18.35 million modern-day slaves), China (3.39 million) and Pakistan (2.13 million).

Katharine Bryant, a research manager at the Walk Free Foundation and one of the index’s authors, said Cambodia’s economic situation is a key driver of its modern slavery crisis, with slavery being defined as “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception”.

“It’s not unique to Cambodia, across the region, limited economic opportunities are pushing people to migrate overseas, sometimes taking less safe routes, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation,” she said.

The report referenced International Labour Organisation research that found 9 per cent of Cambodian fishermen are subject to forced labour; the same research found that Cambodians account for 40 per cent of fishermen across four major Thai ports.

Cambodians are frequently discovered to be working on fishing vessels under brutal conditions overseas. Earlier this month, Licadho human rights observer Sem Chausok said 500 Cambodians have been repatriated over the past three years after being rescued from forced labour at sea.

Forced marriage, meanwhile, accounted for 55,800 of the quarter of a million Cambodians the Walk Free Foundation deems to be modern slaves.

In particular, the report draws attention to the growing trend of Cambodian women trafficked for marriage to Chinese men. Eighty-two Cambodian women were repatriated from China last year.

Bryant said yesterday that China’s one-child policy was in part to blame for the rise in trafficking and forced marriages.

The report recommends that the two countries sign a memorandum of understanding to tackle the issue – negotiations began earlier this month to establish such an MoU.

Bryant also called for greater regulation of Cambodia’s abuse-ridden garment industry, which employs nearly 4 per cent of the Cambodian population.

“Lots of people engaged in modern slavery are working in factories,” she said. “We’d look for inspections to be improved to ensure people are not being exploited.”

Director of the anti-human trafficking department at the Ministry of Interior Phol Pithey said yesterday that while he had not seen the report yet, he doubted the accuracy of its findings.

“As we see the situation today, it is not like that. They just say it; we cannot close their mouth. Cambodia is not like that,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The