Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trafficking of men for work targeted

Trafficking of men for work targeted

Trafficking of men for work targeted

An unknown number of Cambodian men are trafficked each year, often

to be put to work for slave wages in dangerous conditions. A new drive

hopes to put this problem in the spotligh


A victim of male trafficking sits on the dock after being taken off a

Thai fishing boat (left) and the vessels themselves (right) that absorb

many young Cambodian male migrants each year.

Foreign marriages ban: update

Cambodia suspended marriages between

foreigners and Cambodians on March 29 amid concerns over an increase in

the number of brokered unions involving South Korean men and poor,

uneducated women. In 2004, the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh

issued 72 marriage visas to Cambodian women. By 2007, that figure had

leapt to 1,759 and a further 160 marriage visas were issued in the

first month of 2008 alone. You Ay, secretary of state and chairman of

the National Task Force on Anti-human Trafficking, said at a workshop

held Wednesday that she would like to see governmental mechanisms

created to assist Cambodian women married to Koreans.

MEY Say is calm and matter-of-fact when he describes his attempt to migrate to Thailand in search of work.


was cheated," he says, miserably. "There were 18 of us and we could

only eat three cans of fish a day. We couldn't go outside as there were

many Thai soldiers guarding us. If we came out, they would shoot us."

Mey Say's grim story - he thought he was going to be a factory worker

but then was taken into remote jungle and made to cut cassava - is one

of many now being told as NGOs and government officials seek to draw

attention to the largely under-reported area of the illegal trafficking

and exploitation of Cambodian men overseas.

Ly Vichuta, director of Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW),

said that the trafficking of Cambodian men for work has received much

less attention and intervention than the trafficking and sexual

exploitation of women and girls.

"We have decided to address this gap and highlight the plight of male migrants," she said.

"In particular we want to bring attention to the male victims of

trafficking and exploitation who are not currently in the spotlight of

intervention and research," Ly Vichuta added.

Cambodian men who are willingly smuggled into countries such as

Thailand for work often find themselves subjected to conditions of

forced labour in the fishing, construction and agricultural industries.

Many have seen ... family ... migrate and others are attracted by tales of success.

"Most of them work in the fishing industry and many do not receive the

promised job and wage. They have to work long hours, their salary is

often limited or withheld, they experience health problems and are

exposed to violence and drugs," Ly Vichuta said.
Understanding the underlying causes of male migration patterns are key:

most migrants cite poverty and lack of employment as the major reasons

for leaving Cambodia to work overseas, and many have seen other family

members migrate. Others are attracted by tales of success and the

chance to earn big money, Ly Vichuta said.

"We interviewed 200 men who left Cambodia to work in Thailand. While

153 of them were older, married and often left with close family

members, 47 had no families and left with a recruiter, often a

neighbour or distant relative," she said.

"Of the 153, 26 men were trafficked, and of the 47 [without families], 18 men were trafficked," Ly Vichuta added.

Young men who are eager to explore life and make their own decisions

often leave alone and are more likely to be victims of exploitation.

"Many of the men are between the ages of 19 and 25 and leave with

recruiters. They want to fit the social role of the strong male and are

vulnerable to trafficking," said Ly Vichuta

Bith Kimhong, director of Cambodia's Anti-human Trafficking Department,

said that while trafficking of men presents a problem, men are

reluctant to complain. "We have only ever received three complaints

from men who had been trafficked for labour," he said.

Intervention  needed

"For intervention we have educated people about past cases of [male]

trafficking and enhanced border police to prevent recruiters from

smuggling people," he added.

"We have also informed Thai police that Cambodian people are working

illegally as fishermen in Thailand, but we haven't had any positive


Nop Sarin Sreyroth, director of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center,

said that while men are just as scared as women when they are

trafficked, men will afterwards often not accept that they were

exploited and only claim that they were cheated.

Ly Vichuta said that LSCW has focused their intervention on men in

Kampong Cham, Kampot, Prey Veng and Koh Kong as these are the major

ports of transit with Thailand.

"We don't know yet whether the number of migrants has increased or decreased," he said.