Minister of Interior Sar Kheng told authorities at all levels to secure the Kingdom’s borders to prevent human trafficking and stop illegal immigrants entering Cambodia.

Sar Kheng gave the instruction while presiding over a ceremony marking the National Day against Human Trafficking under the theme “Together to eliminate human trafficking towards achieving sustainable development goals” at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh on December 12.

“Leaders, civil servants, authorities, law enforcement forces and government officials at all levels, please strive to control the borders to prevent the common causes that lead to human trafficking and various abuses as well as eliminating unsafe and illegal migration and illegal employment,” he urged.

Sar Kheng also asked the leaders of all religious bodies to share reasons behind the fight against human trafficking to all of their believers in communities across the country, so they better understand the importance of the campaign.

In addition, he encouraged all national and international industries to support key measures and work together as a whole to take stronger action to “prevent, suppress, punish, save and defend, and make sure that Cambodia has no human trafficking.”

He noted that the unpredictable return of Cambodian workers from abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic made border management complicated. It had given illegal immigrants the opportunity to sneak into Cambodia and commit crimes in the country, he said, adding that he was pleased at the government’s efforts to crack down on such activities.

“Under such circumstances, the government has not been indifferent. It has launched several operations and undertaken several measures which investigate, prosecute and eradicate all forms of human trafficking and other related crimes until the Kingdom returns to its normal levels of social order and security,” he added.

Sar Kheng stated that Cambodia has been actively involved in the preparation and approval of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The Kingdom has been recognised by the UN as “champions” of the GCM for its commitment to protecting the interests and legitimate rights of migrant workers and protecting them from suffering of all forms of abuse and exploitation.

Chou Bun Eng – ministry secretary of state and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) – said that in the first half of 2022, the situation of human trafficking had improved, with a significant reduction in the crime rate.

She said the situation has improved thanks to the prevention and suppression of human trafficking, labour trafficking and sex trade.

However, she admitted there are new crimes being committed by criminals who utilised fake businesses and took advantage of the economic opportunities that the government has provided in areas such as Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and some other provinces to commit crimes.

Bun Eng said that from August 18 to November 2022, there were 1,122 people who declared themselves victims and sought rescue, 121 of them women.

“Of the 1,122 interventions, 153 were identified as victims of human trafficking, detention or forced labour, 18 of them women. The majority were claiming victimhood as they were unhappy with their working conditions or had been wrongly identified as trafficked by their families,” she added.

She said the government will not allow the return of the victims of trafficking to their workplaces.

Following a series of operations which ended on October 19, a total of 26 suspects of four nationalities were charged and sent to court for prosecution. Five suspected crime sites were permanently closed. An additional four locations have been temporarily closed pending investigation.