The US yesterday launched a US$5 million anti-human trafficking program in Cambodia, but according to a government audit of the US’s first counter-trafficking effort in Kingdom, significant challenges still need to be overcome.
The Counter-Trafficking in Persons II program (CTIP II) is a four-year effort that the US Embassy hopes “will build upon the notable achievements of CTIP I”, which originally ran from August 2006 until June 2009, and then received a two-year extension through last September.
However, the CTIP I program contained critical weaknesses, according to a 2009 audit by USAID’s Office of Inspector General.
”Without estimates of the scope of human trafficking to use as baselines in project locations, it is difficult to determine where interventions are most needed and would have the greatest impact,” it said, citing US Government Accountability Office reports.
Eric Meldrum, operations director for South East Asian Investigations in Social and Humanitarian Activities, an anti-human-trafficking organisation that was named as one of the sub-partners of the CTIP II program, echoed this need for more accurate statistics.
“Identifying traffic victims is problematic in this country,” he said, adding that the figures released by the government were much lower than the actual scope of the problem.
These deflated numbers make trafficking an “invisible crime”, he said, and therefore put less “onus” on government officials.
Like its predecessor, the multi-million dollar CTIP II program will focus on the areas of prevention, protection and prosecution.