Govt and rights groups await data to confirm suspicions.
THOUGH it remains a significant issue, human trafficking in Cambodia has decreased in 2009, officials from the Ministry of Interior and local rights groups said Thursday.
Chiv Phally, deputy director of the department of anti-human trafficking and minority protection at the Ministry of Interior, said that women and children in Cambodia are safer now than in past years thanks to increased law enforcement and successful prosecutions of human-trafficking offenders. The ministry official was speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh to kick off a government campaign publicising rights protections for victims of child trafficking.
Though he did not provide any official statistics to support his claim about the trafficking decline, Chiv Phally vowed continued vigilance on the part of anti-trafficking authorities to secure further decreases. In addition to his praise for law enforcement, he also attributed the trafficking decline to community awareness programmes organised by the government that have informed the Kingdom’s residents about how best to protect themselves from predatory criminals.
Samleang Seila, country director for the child rights group Action Pour Les Enfants, said that his organisation and most others working on the issue have acknowledged the trafficking drop.
“If we look at the number of arrests and the number of complaints made to the courts, we see a reduction in human trafficking,” he said, citing “law enforcement effectiveness and the increasing understanding and commitment of the government” as the main reason for this reduction.
Lim Tith, the national project coordinator for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) agreed that trafficking in Cambodia has likely declined, but cautioned that the news is not all good.
“Internally, it has probably decreased, but externally, it has stayed the same or even increased,” he said, differentiating between trafficking within Cambodia and the trafficking of Cambodians to other countries.
Most Cambodians victimised by international traffickers end up in Thailand or Malaysia, he said, as the demand for cheap labour has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis.
UNIAP plans to release a comprehensive study of human trafficking in Cambodia near the end of this year, which Lim Tith said he hopes will substantiate the limited information currently available on trafficking trends.
“Definitely before the end of this year, we’ll have this data, and then we’ll know,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE AND SEBASTIAN STRANGIO