In the first six months of this year, authorities cracked down on 78 cases of human and sex trafficking and rescued 263 victims. This is an increase of 25 and 148 per cent respectively compared to the same period last year, the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking said.
The committee released its report on Tuesday during an inter-ministerial meeting attended by officials from six relevant institutions and presided over by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, who is also committee chairman.
The report said there were 62 cases of human and sex trafficking, with 106 victims saved, in the same period last year.
In the first six months of this year, 97 suspects were sent to court, compared to 85 in the same period last year – an increase of 14 per cent. Of that number, 22 were women and 14 were foreigners, including 12 Chinese and two Americans.
Of the 263 victims who had been saved, 70 were under 15 years old, 31 aged 15 to 17 years and 162 were over 18. Of the total, 191 were handed over to their families and 72 to Social Affairs departments.
The ministry’s secretary of state Chou Bun Eng, who is also the permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking, told reporters after the closed-door meeting that the authorities had made great efforts in tackling the crime.
“We can say our increased efforts in investigations led to more crackdowns and more convictions than last year. We saved more victims compared to the same period last year, so of course we have done better,” she said.
Bun Eng said she regretted the US government’s decision to place Cambodia in the second-tier classification in its human trafficking report.
She blamed the poor ranking on the US’ inclusion of political issues concerning the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in its assessment.
“There are cases where they put pressure on us to do this or that. They included political issues in the report.
“They cited the issue of the opposition party in its assessment. It is a case that should not be considered. I mean the fight against human trafficking is technical and has nothing to do with politics,” she said.
In the meeting, she said, Sar Kheng urged all relevant parties to continue tackling and preventing human trafficking and sex trafficking to improve Cambodia’s ranking.
Ros Sopheap, the executive director of NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), said that while she applauded the committee’s achievements, she urged the authorities to put more efforts in preventing human and sex trafficking.
She said women working in the entertainment sector and those lured into marriage with foreigners were still vulnerable to trafficking.
“They still face exploitation at some karaoke parlours and nightclubs. When women are abused or beaten, the places do not have any measures to protect them,” she said.
The National Committee for Counter Trafficking said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior are tasked with processing marriage applications between Cambodians and foreigners.
The committee said a total of 1,009 couples had applied to get married in the first six months of this year.