The National Committee for Counter-Trafficking yesterday told government officials to identify and address the causes of human trafficking in the Kingdom in order to have Cambodia removed from the US government’s Tier 2 Watch List.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who is also chairman of the NCCT, yesterday attended the 3rd National Inter-Faith Forum on Combatting Human Trafficking, where he said even though Cambodia has made serious efforts in combatting human trafficking, officials failed to maintain momentum built in 2017.
“In 2018, we achieved fruitful results in preventing and combatting human trafficking,” Mr Kheng said. “But results fell behind if compared to 2017.”
He added that officials must not underestimate the problem and that they must identify root causes.
“I am not happy about this. What are the causes of the problem? How is it that the country is still placed in Tier 2?” Mr Kheng said. “Is it because the government is not committed enough? Or is it because of weakness in law enforcement or disproportionate punishments for criminals?”
According to the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report on Cambodia, the US State Department said despite efforts in curbing human trafficking, the government did not do enough.
“The government of Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” it said.
“In several high-profile cases, the government used anti-trafficking legislation and law enforcement resources to target political opposition figures and other non-traffickers attempting to document the country’s trafficking circumstances,” it added.
Mr Kheng said officials must be committed to eliminating the problem and ensure that Cambodia is no longer listed so that the country is safe and attractive to investors.
“Looking at the big picture, the country is not likely to develop if it is harmful and insecure because of human trafficking,” he said. “Cambodia will be considered as a place for money laundering as well if this problem is not well addressed.”
Mr Kheng noted that government officials should educate people and apprehend masterminds whom he believes are mostly rich people.
NCCT vice chairwoman Chou Bun Eng yesterday said religious communities in the Kingdom should participate in preventing human trafficking.
“We are not goods for criminals to trade or traffic for their own benefits,” Ms Bun Eng said. “I believe in all religious communities working together and taking care of each other.”
According to an NCCT report, crackdowns on cases of human trafficking increased by 25 percent during the first half of this year when compared to the same period last year.
It noted that the National Police and military police foiled 78 cases between January and June, an increase of 16 when compared to the same period last year.
Kim Rattana, executive director of Caritas Cambodia, yesterday said although the government and civil society groups have made achievements in combatting human trafficking, the problem persists not only in Cambodia, but also in the region.
Mr Rattana said commitment is required to prevent human trafficking.
“This requires real commitment and participation from all related stakeholders,” he said. “We all must help to disseminate information and raise awareness among people in order to prevent human trafficking and modern-day slavery.”