The government’s hopes for a united front against human trafficking were dealt a small blow yesterday when Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng prepared to open a meeting of the Migration Working Group of the National Committee Secretariat – and found a few conspicuously empty chairs.
The newly formed group, which brings together government, police and UN agencies to combat human trafficking, smuggling, labour exploitation and sexual exploitation of women and children in the migrant community, noticeably lacked representatives from some government departments who were scheduled to attend.
“I do not want to mention any ministries . . . [but] this shows that they ignore the principles of the suppression of trafficking and some are not willing to participate,” Kheng said.
Sending out low-level officials to represent the ministries wouldn’t cut it either, he added.
“Chiefs of offices are not appropriate.”
A quick look at the agenda showed the ministries of Social Affairs, Planning, National Defence and Health – though listed as participants – appeared to have sent no representatives.
Wenny Kusuma, Cambodia country director for UN Women, said there did not appear to be a problem with engaging ministries on the issue, but “the challenge that faces all stakeholders, both government and non-government, is to look outside of their mandate at the larger picture”.
The working group is unique because of the number of stakeholders, Kusuma said.
“Whilst there are a number of projects and initiatives that may focus on women or men specifically, it is often still the case that the more general work on migration is undertaken without any gender lens,” she said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Rosa Ellen and Sen David at [email protected]