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‘Hunt down the masterminds’

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Minister of Interior Sar Kheng addresses action in the fight against human trafficking during a meeting at the ministry on Tuesday. SAR KHENG VIA FACEBOOK

‘Hunt down the masterminds’

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng insisted on Tuesday that law enforcement agencies must leave no stone unturned in the search for the “masterminds” behind human trafficking and bring them to justice without exception.

Sar Kheng was speaking at a meeting on Tuesday at the Ministry of Interior to discuss action in the fight against human trafficking.

“I think the key aim is to find the ringleaders of human trafficking. There is collusion between masterminds in this country and foreign brokers.

“Acquiring real information on trafficking targets is of the utmost importance in order to carry out effective crackdowns and to lay out measures to collaborate effectively with relevant stakeholders,” he said.

Sar Kheng said that last year human trafficking had continued in all its forms, but by assessing past activities and continuing with efforts to prevent and control the trade, significant progress could be made going forward.

“Continue to prosecute and punish offenders. Although we have done that, the problem remains. We want to show the nation and the international community that Cambodia has a strong will to combat human trafficking.

“I am very worried about the provinces that have not taken any real steps to confront the problem and I urge them to work harder,” he said.

Sar Kheng, who is also chairman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said that the government had this year continued to strengthen its fight against human trafficking.

“But authorities must resolutely search for offenders and further crack down on new offences in the country and abroad, in close collaboration with relevant authorities,” he said.

Kheng maintained that the government, through the NCCT, was committed to increasing awareness and implementing the recommendations of bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the Asean and international treaties signed and approved by Cambodia.

Close attention, he said, must be paid at border crossings with Thailand, especially in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces, which were the most heavily targeted.

Ministry of Interior secretary of state and permanent NCCT deputy chair Chou Bun Eng gave a brief report on human trafficking in the previous year.

He said enforcement teams had cracked down on 134 cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation last year, compared to 159 cases in 2017.

Bun Eng said 224 suspects had been detained last year, 21 more than in 2017, and over the two years authorities had rescued 575 victims.

Soeung Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, said law enforcement officers did not always implement the law to their full capacity, leaving ringleaders the chance to continue their crimes.

“We have seen authorities arresting offenders and enforcing the law in the past, but they cannot find a way to apprehend the ringleaders. I think those involved in arrests should push for more information from detainees.

“When intermediaries are arrested, why can’t we find the ringleaders? The intermediaries should know who the ringleaders are,” Sen Karuna said.