Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday blamed anti-human trafficking officials for the Kingdom’s failure to improve its standing on the United States’ 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report because they failed to submit updated reports on time.
In June, the US State Department released its annual report on human trafficking, which showed that the Kingdom’s standing remained stagnant despite significant efforts in curbing human trafficking because the government did not do enough to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
It also 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.
Mr Kheng, who is also chairman of the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking, yesterday said that after the report was issued in June, he launched a probe to determine why the Kingdom’s standing remained stagnant and how it can be improved next year.
“I wondered why Cambodia was placed in the Tier 2 Watch List, so I questioned relevant officials since we have cracked down on numerous cases and many perpetrators have been convicted,” he said. “I found out that our officials did not submit reports to the US State Department, so the State Department did not have [updated] information and data from us.”
“I would like to clarify that it’s not that we did not take action to curb this problem,” Mr Kheng said.
He then ordered Interior and Justice Ministry officials to strengthen cooperation to have Cambodia removed from the US government’s Tier 2 Watch List in 2020.
The 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019.
According to an NCCT report on its website, crackdowns on cases of human trafficking increased by 50 percent during the first nine months of this year when compared to the same period last year.
NCCT vice chairwoman Chou Bun Eng yesterday said authorities were unable to submit updated reports on time due to time constraints.
“The [research for the] US report on human trafficking was conducted early in the year, meaning that it did not take into account information from an entire year,” Ms Bun Eng said. “Every three to six months, the NCCT issues a report on the results of its work. However, the US reports before June. How can they access complete information? This is misunderstanding and lack of communication.”
She added that the NCCT in its five-year plan will train the authorities on how to crack down on human traffickers operating online.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with the rights group Licadho, yesterday called on the government to put in serious effort in addressing the core causes of human trafficking in the Kingdom.
“Human trafficking is a complex issue that requires tangible efforts to curb,” Mr Sam Ath said. “I think the government must cooperate with relevant stakeholders to address the problem, or else the problem will become serious.”