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Exploitation up, trafficking down

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
The cases of exploitation of women rose slightly last year. Supplied

More cases of sexual exploitation were reported in 2016, a report from the Interior Ministry revealed yesterday. 
 
However, the number of human trafficking cases saw a reduction last year compared with 2015. 
 
In 2016, the ministry reported 52 cases of sexual exploitation involving 87 victims who were rescued and 64 perpetrators who were arrested, of which 27 were foreign nationals. 
 
This is compared with 2015 figures which saw 48 cases involving 138 victims. Sixty-nine people were arrested, of which 12 were foreigners. 
As for human trafficking, there were only 24 reported cases last year, compared with the 46 reported in 2015. 
 
The government rescued 108 victims last year, including six people under 15, 21 between 15 and 17 years of age and 81 people above the age of 18. Thirty-six people were arrested, three of whom were foreigners. 
 
In 2015, 187 victims were rescued and 56 people arrested, which included five foreign nationals. 
 
The ministry said the main reason for the persistent cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, despite the government cracking down on it, is was because many Cambodians live in poverty. 
 
“The main reason is because of the crisis of poverty, unemployment and the people’s limited knowledge. The sexual exploitation mostly occurs at night clubs, massage parlors, karaoke parlors, restaurant, hotels and guesthouses,” the report said. 
 
“Whereas the labor business is mostly perpetuated by brokers who cheat those migrating to neighboring countries and then force them to work or beg.” 
 
Interior Minister Sar Kheng at the opening of the ministry’s annual meeting yesterday urged all officials to work together to resolve the issues and to come up with a plan to be implemented this year to better maintain peace, security, political stability and public order. 
 
The ministry’s anti-human trafficking director Pol Phiethey declined Khmer Times’ request for a comment, stating that he was in a meeting. 
 
Following a meeting between Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos last week, National Police chief Neth Savoeun said the ongoing incidents of sexual exploitation and human trafficking were a result of a lack of awareness by Cambodians. 
 
He said that although the government has been actively working to curb illegal operations, the issue persisted as many criminals used local traders to cheat people into migrating for work, marriage, prostitution or drug use. 
 
“After we issued the measures for which to prevent and suppress all human trafficking and sexual exploitation activity on women and children, especially the implementation measures to curb the flow of illegal migrant workers abroad in 2016, we see the offense of sexual exploitation decreasing by approximately 19.148 percent,” he said. 
 
An investigator for rights group Licadho said human trafficking cases had indeed decreased last year as the organization handled 90 cases in 2016, compared with the 100 cases they handled in 2015. 
 
“The offense is still continuing to occur due to a group of people working illegally. They work outside the legal system and are unofficial which means they take workers through shortcuts to Thailand or Malaysia,” Sem Chao Sok said. 
 
The ministry’s report added that in 2017, it will continue its work in research, prevention and suppression of human trafficking and more actively work towards protecting women and children. 
 
According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement from January, 816 Cambodian migrant workers were repatriated last year after they were subjected to abuse, trafficking and other work-related difficulties. 
 
Malaysia saw the most number of repatriations at 272 followed by 231 from Vietnam, 139 from Thailand, 78 from Indonesia, 64 from China, 16 from Japan, six from Singapore, four from the Philippines, two from both Laos and Russia and one from both Australia and Saudi Arabia.
 
Cambodia ranks on Tier 2 of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 which are “countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA’s [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet those standards.”
 
While most of the other countries Cambodians migrant workers work in either share that ranking or better, Malaysia and Thailand, where most Cambodians end up, were ranked on the lower Tier 2 watchlist. 
 
Countries in the Tier 2 watchlist are those who, while having made efforts to meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, also have either a very significant or an increasing number of trafficking victims and have failed to provide evidence of their increasing efforts to combat the crime.

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