A local NGO fighting against sex slavery says if the government doesn’t do more to get the police to crack down on brothels and other organizations involved in the sex trade, human trafficking in Cambodia will continue its booming pace.
Sao Chhoeuth, Technical Coordinator of AFESIP Cambodia, told the Post on February 5 that within the last two years the level of human trafficking and exploitation has continued at a high level.
“In general the situation of human trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia has not decreased compared to the last ten years and the market is now demanding the youngest girls,” Chhoeuth said.
“We have no statistics or surveys about the industry across the country. What we can say is based on our experience.”
Chhoeuth said that the AFESIP has filed at least 20 complaints to the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection against brothels suspected in trafficking.
Although the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia does not permit prostitution, local police are not only permitting the sex industry to thrive, but benefit from it by indirect involvement in its management, he said.
He said that AFESIP has reported some brothels to police that it suspects are involved in human trafficking and exploitation and called for the legal assistance to rescue the victims, but the efforts always fail.
“We have suspected that all the information we report to the local police leaks out,” Choeuth said.
AFESIP has changed its strategy to now work directly with the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection of the Ministry of Interior, he said.
Chhoeuth said that over 11 years, AFESIP has rescued 4,000 women who were trafficked by brothels, karaoke bars and massage parlors and brought them to its health care center. The victims were between 16 and 20 years old. Most had little education and many came from rural areas on the promise of getting a job.
“We are concerned that the situation of human trafficking and exploitation will explode when the government takes little action to fight against the industries involved,” Chhoeuth said.
Meanwhile, a new Adhoc annual report on human rights said that young girls are being trafficked from rural areas to barber shops, karaoke bars, hotels, guesthouses and other places selling sex services. After the girls lose their virginity, they are sold to work in brothels.
However, Bith Kim Hong, director of the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection of the Ministry of Interior, disputed the NGO reports.
He told the Post that human trafficking and exploitation has been decreasing in Cambodia ever since deputy prime minister Sar Kheng, the launched a government task force to combat human trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry in March 2007.
Kim Hong described the effort as a priority watchdog task force to encourage law enforcement and the provincial authorities to investigate trafficking cases and carry on an educational campaign for the public, hotels, guesthouses and entertainment industries.
Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Honorary President of the newly formed National Committee for Strengthening of Society, Value of Women and Families, told government officials this month that the widespread and difficult to control industries of DVD sex, gambling, drug trafficking and human trafficking are leading to the creation of new sex industries as well as rape.
“Our Khmer culture is seriously declining now,” Bun Rany said. “If the police understood their role the problems would not be happening.”