The National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) has identified nearly 900 foreigners from 12 countries involved in human trafficking in Cambodia, with authorities netting 150 suspects involved in sexual exploitation, according to the NCCT’s report.

The report was presented during an annual meeting held to review the NCCT’s work results in 2022 and direction for 2023, in the presence of Minister of Interior Sar Kheng,

The minister, who also chairs the NCCT, said that from last August, the government began to increase its operations to suppress human trafficking in the country after the authorities had investigated many complaints and determined it was a legitimate problem.

He added that in the course of their operations, the authorities found nearly 900 foreigners involved in human trafficking and he urged the relevant institutions to work more effectively to crack down on organised criminal activity.

“We should not be proud of the outcomes of the counter-human trafficking operations. Instead we must work even harder to ensure that human trafficking perpetrators are always punished according to the law and the victims of the crimes are all rescued.

“Therefore the NCCT secretariat must gather all of the information and hold meetings to find all possible ways to respond to this problem in an appropriate and timely manner,” he said.

Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of state of the Ministry of Interior and permanent Vice-Chair of the NCCT, stated that in 2022, all ministries, institutions, departments, units of the capital and provinces which are members of the NCCT at all levels had worked hard as defined strategy, with the supports of relevant national and international partners.

“As a result of the implementation of the operational plan to increase the suppression of all forms of human trafficking, from August 18 to November 10, 2022, authorities found 871 foreigners from 12 countries. 162 were identified as involved in smuggling and human trafficking, and 80 others were identified as criminal suspects and sent to the court,” she said.

She added that when the operations started the authorities found many cases of human trafficking, but the numbers decreased gradually over time.

She said that there were 130 cases of sexual exploitation crimes that resulted in the arrest of 149 suspects, including 19 minors and 10 foreigners of three nationalities, while 225 victims were rescued: 124 of them were under 15-years-old, 31 were from 15 to 17-years-old and 70 were over 18-years-old. A total of 48 victims were sent to the Department of Social Affairs and 177 victims were sent home to their families.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director at rights group LICADHO, said that in order to effectively crack down on human trafficking as well as drug trafficking, the authorities need to increase cooperation with relevant institutions.

“Cambodia must have necessary measures in place. First, strengthen cooperation between all officials in the country; second, strengthen enforcement officials’ capacity; third, all officials must stay away from drug trafficking and fourth we must have cooperation with neighbouring countries in the region and internationally,” he said.

Sar Kheng said that although the outcomes for 2022 were better than in 2021, this issue was still a challenging situation that required the full attention of the police counter it effectively.

“The political will of the Cambodian government in countering human trafficking remains strong and sharply committed to the task. Therefore, all stakeholders must abide by this political will and work together to further combat all human trafficking,” said Sar Kheng.