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Sar Kheng: Intensify clampdowns on trafficking, money laundering

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Interior minister Sar Kheng presides over an inauguration of new buildings at Phnom Penh municipal police on September 8. POLICE

Sar Kheng: Intensify clampdowns on trafficking, money laundering

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has called for more concerted efforts, in term of policies and ground action, to resolve money laundering and human trafficking issues which has affected Cambodia’s reputation.

On September 8, Sar Kheng said the Kingdom is facing two issues. One, being in the “gray list” of money laundering of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and two, as the target for human trafficking.

Speaking during the inauguration of office buildings at the Phnom Penh municipal police, Sar Kheng appealed for people’s support and unity to uphold the principle, policy, and implementation of operations.

“We need to be unified to tackle these two problems,” he said.

Regarding the gray list, where Cambodia has been since 2019, Sar Kheng said he does not support the ranking, but he cannot deny the allegations.

“We have to see clearly whether such issues are really happening here. If we don’t try to get our country out of this gray list, we can one day fall into the black list. But I am sure that we will not reach that situation, so we cannot be complacent,” he said.

Sar Kheng explained that assuming money laundering happens in Cambodia, it will trigger the banking system as the FATF will check the money and its source.

Currently, Cambodia is combating the issue under the direct leadership of Justice Minister Keout Rith, National Police chief Neth Savoeun, Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia Chea Chanto, as well as relevant ministries and institutions.

Sar Kheng explained that combatting a drug trafficking case means going down to the root of the problem. Such a practice must be also applied to human trafficking, not just rescuing victims. “We must tackle those behind it and bring them to justice.”

With regards to human trafficking, the minister said in the last two weeks, Cambodia has arrested 30 people who travelled by boat from China through Vietnam to Preah Sihanouk province.

Police found that they did not have any visa or other travel documents, apart from the clothes on their bodies. He believed that they might have been tricked into coming to Cambodia.

“We have kept them in a place before being deported. They have been cheated by brokers. This is one of our challenges when I say it affects our nation’s reputation,” Sar Kheng said, adding that Cambodia has become known for online scamming.

“[Up to] 99.9 per cent of the ringleaders of the crime are not Cambodian nationals. The ones who make plans to send people from other countries to Cambodia are not Cambodians,” Sar Kheng said, adding that this sort of crime is non-traditional.

He said even Japanese people have become the victims of scams committed from inside Cambodia.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for monitoring at rights group LICADHO, said money laundering and human trafficking are two major crimes which can badly affect Cambodian’s reputation if they are really happen here.

He urged the authorities to continue fighting and preventing such crimes via legal enforcement, policy strengthening and expanding cooperation.

Meanwhile, independent digital security consultant Nget Mose voiced his concern over the scams happening in Cambodia.

“Should the crimes continue being operated by foreigners from inside Cambodia, it would affect Cambodia’s reputation, particularly it being the ASEAN Chair this year, although the mandate is running out,” he said.

Mose also pointed out that Cambodia is drafting a cybercrime law, which targets IT crimes, while some right groups have expressed concern over privacy issues.

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