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Minister Blames Borders for Trafficking

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaking at yesterday’s meeting. KT/Mai Vireak

Interior Minister Sar Kheng blamed the country’s continual problems with trafficking on porous borders and local government officials, who he said during a speech yesterday were frequently ignoring edicts from the national government and even orders he personally delivered himself.
During a workshop on the implementation of a law attempting to address human trafficking and sexual exploitation yesterday, Mr. Kheng acknowledged the government’s failure in dealing with the root causes of trafficking, but said national officials and ministries had little sway over provincial authorities, who wielded large amounts of power in remote areas where they know few people will hold them accountable.
He said the provinces along the borders of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos had many “secret” illegal crossings that had been opened and operated by corrupt officials.
Everything from people to drugs and illegally logged wood passed through these unsanctioned border crossings and Mr. Kheng’s many calls for them to be shut down have largely been ignored by local officials, who make hefty sums of money from bribes.
“We opened many legal gates and international checkpoints with our neighboring countries,” he said. “I myself have called many times to close these [illegal] gates, but why are they still open?
“This type of secret opening is a way to traffic humans, drugs and to smuggle goods into the country,” he said.
The Interior Minister and chairman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking in Persons said the lightly guarded borders were allowing – and in some ways economically forcing – Cambodians to move illegally across borders for work or to traffic illegal goods.
He urged those considering traveling abroad illegally for work to think twice about making the journey and said cooperation between the government and NGOs was needed to crack down on trafficking brokers and networks for human trafficking.
The Thai government is working with Cambodia, he said, to address illegal immigration and was interested in creating processes that would help Cambodia’s citizens work legally in Thailand and avoid mistreatment or arrest.
Almost 70,000 Cambodian migrant workers were deported from Thailand through the Poipet international checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province last year, with the daily average being about 200, Poipet checkpoint immigration police chief Sim Sam Ath said, citing an annual report released in February.
In 2014, more than 270,000 Cambodian migrants were deported from Thailand for lacking proper documents.
The Interior Ministry reported that a census by the Thai government in March last year found that more than 450,000 Cambodians were living and working illegally in Thailand, but civil society organizations in Cambodia say the number is more than one million.
Senior officials in the Cambodian army on Tuesday called on their Thai counterparts to stop their units from opening fire on Cambodians crossing the border illegally, urging their neighbors to show “humanity.”
Dozens of Cambodians are shot and killed every year while trying to cross illegally into Thailand in search of employment, usually in Thai factories or for illegal logging.
At least 143 Cambodians and another several hundred more have been seriously injured from gunshot wounds inflicted by the Thai military.
Cambodia and Thailand agreed to start construction next year on a $58 million border checkpoint linking the Stung Bot area in Banteay Meanchey province with Sa Kaeo province in Thailand.
Government ministers said they hoped the additional border gate would facilitate and encourage legal border crossings.

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