The US embassy in Cambodia announced the launch of a five-year US Agency for International Development (USAID) programme that seeks to protect vulnerable populations from human trafficking abuses.

The Cambodia Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) programme will be carried out in Phnom Penh and seven provinces – Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Battambang, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey.

The programme – to be managed by the NGO Winrock International and runs from 2021-2026 – seeks to address the root causes of human trafficking and advocate and protect vulnerable populations from trafficking and abuse by preventing at-risk populations from risky migration attempts and assisting the Cambodian government with anti-trafficking enforcement and victim support efforts.

Winrock International manager for CTIP Mark Laylor said at the launch event on August 26 that the project will strengthen the implementation of national and local strategies to prevent human trafficking, strengthen the identification system and assist victims of trafficking and strengthen accountability so that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

He added the programme will also focus on food security and basic income for people to encourage them to avoid risky migrations.

“Our assistance looks at the needs of the market. It means helping people find occupations or participate in the marketplace in a way that allows them to earn money. The project will also educate people and change their attitudes or mindset towards human trafficking as well as risky migrations,” Laylor said

In addition, it will promote and encourage domestic employment opportunities so that people have opportunities to work locally.

“We want to encourage everyone to stay at home because staying at home is safer and it will create an economic life for their communities in the villages of Cambodia,” he added.

US ambassador Patrick Murphy said at the event that Winrock International was widely recognised for its efforts in combating human trafficking and that they had experience doing so in Cambodia, having managed USAID’s previous CTIP programme.

Murphy said human trafficking occurred everywhere but during the Covid-19 pandemic, the fight against human trafficking became more difficult because the loss of tourism and the resulting economic disruption had greatly increased the number of migrants vulnerable to trafficking.

Chou Bun Eng, Ministry of Interior secretary of state and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said at the event that with the support of the new CTIP programme and with other partners, the NCCT will be able to find more of the perpetrators of human trafficking to punish them while protecting and assisting the victims.

Bun Eng said NCCT welcomed the cooperative efforts of USAID’s CTIP programme and Winrock International in the fight against human trafficking and with providing victim assistance, protection and rehabilitation.