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Cambodia Human Trafficking Situation
The human trafficking situation in Cambodia is far from a homogenous phenomenon. Trafficking networks range from small-scale, ad hoc activities to large-scale and well-organised criminal operations.
Cambodia now experiences significant levels of internal and cross-border trafficking, and is a country of origin, transit and destination. Cambodia’s turbulent history has had a significant impact on human trafficking trends. Societal structures and traditions, such as the centrality of the family, the Buddhist religion and respect for elders, have been undermined. While peace has returned, the impact of Cambodia’s violent past can be seen at all levels of society.
Approximately 50% of the current population of Cambodia is under 20 years of age. Over 200,000 people join the labour force annually, a trend that is expect to continue. At present, the job creation rate does not match the ever increasing labour supply. The lack of viable employment opportunities in Cambodia, wage discrepancies with neighboring countries and the inadequacy of rural farming options causes many Cambodians to migrate in search of employment. This large scale movement of people often results in irregular and/or uninformed forms internal and cross-border migration, which can render individuals vulnerable to human trafficking.
Domestic trafficking patterns relate primarily to sexual exploitation of women and children, while transnational trafficking patterns generally involve both sexual and labour exploitation. Cambodian men, women and children migrate to countries within the region, primarily Thailand and Malaysia for work, and some fall victim to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, debt bondage, or forced labour within the fishing, construction or agricultural industries. Cambodia also serves as a destination country for trafficking victims from other countries.
Some commonly cited causes to explain the emergence and detection of human trafficking in Cambodia include the arrival of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1993, uneven economic development from the influx of foreign investment, capacity issues in governance, discrimination and gender inequality, increasing scarcity of productive agricultural land, natural disasters, debt pressures, increased tourism (including sex tourism), and the inadequacy of safe and legal avenues for migration.
COMMIT Structure in Cambodia
The two main bodies combining efforts to combat human trafficking in Cambodia are the Cambodian COMMIT Task Force, and the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Trafficking, Smuggling and Sexual and Labour Exploitation of Women and Children. These bodies are responsible for the implementation of the laws/policies, such as the “Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation,” and the “National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking,” as well as the provision of monitoring and evaluation of the nation’s counter-trafficking work.
COMMIT has fuelled major progress in counter-human trafficking efforts in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) since its inception, and the signing of the COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2004. Because of its comprehensive nature and sound empirical basis, underpinned by high-level political commitment from the six GMS governments, the COMMIT Process provides an unprecedented opportunity to advance a multi-sectoral and effective regional response to human trafficking, based on the latest good practices and lessons learned throughout the region and beyond. COMMIT also plays an important role in cooperating with counter-trafficking partners to coordinate national and regional level activities.
Cambodia COMMIT Milestones
- Multilateral MoU “COMMIT MoU” signed at Inter-Ministerial Meeting 1 (IMM1) Yangon, Myanmar
- Sub-regional Plan of Action I (SPA I) adopted at Senior Officials Meeting 3 (SOM 3) in Hanoi, Viet Nam
- Creation of joint Guidelines with Thailand on Repatriation
- Agreement signed between Cambodia and Viet Nam on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Women and Children and Assisting Victims of Trafficking
- Creation of guidelines on Protection of the Rights of Child Victims
- Guidelines for Cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand on the Criminal Justice Process of Trafficking-Related Crimes signed
- Creation of Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children
- SPA II adopted at SOM 5 in Beijing, China
- Joint Ministerial Declaration against Human Trafficking endorsed at IMM 2 in Beijing, China
- ASEAN Declaration on Protection of Migrant Workers signed
- Bilateral Police Cooperation Agreement between the Cambodia and Viet Nam signed
- Agreement between 5 Ministries and 24 NGOs on Support for Victims of Human Trafficking
- Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation promulgated
- Policy and Minimum Standards on Protection of the Rights of Victims of Trafficking created
- Agreement between Cambodia and Viet Nam on Standard Operating Procedures for Identification and Repatriation of Trafficked Victims signed
- SPA III adopted at SOM 7 in Bagan, Myanmar
- Labour Migration policy established
- Sub-decree No. 190 on Sending Workers Abroad through Private Recruitment Agencies adopted
- National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking (2011-2013) adopted
- The endorsement of the second Joint Ministerial Declaration against Human Trafficking at IMM 3 in Hanoi, Viet Nam
- The Commentary Notes of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation disseminated
COMMIT Ministerial Representatives for Cambodia
COMMIT Cambodia was established in 2005 by the decision of the Prime Minister. It has been chaired by H.E. San Arun, Secretary of State of Ministry of Women’s Affairs with H.E. Ith Rady, Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Justice and H.E. Kim Hong, Director General of Technical Affairs of Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation as vice-chairs. There are fourteen members in COMMIT Task Force from 11 different ministries: Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT), Ministry of Information (MoInfo), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), Ministry of National Defence (MoND), Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Ministry of Education Youth and Sports ( MoEYS) and the Council of Ministers.
Other mechanisms against human trafficking have been established at all levels within the Cambodian government. In 1999, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) formed the Department of Legal Protection, equipped with the Office of Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) established the Office of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection in 1996 and the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection in 2002. In addition, the National Royal Gendarmerie established the Section on Anti-Human Trafficking in 2002 and the Office of Anti-Human Trafficking in 2009. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) also established the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Reintegration in 2011.
In 2007, the National Task Force to Implement Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements and MoU between the Royal Government of Cambodia and other Relevant Countries for Eliminating Trafficking in Persons and Assisting Victims of Trafficking (NTF) was established and led by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. In the same year, a large-scale suppression on suspected locations was conducted which required another mechanism to be established, namely the High Level Working Group to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labour Exploitation and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children (HLWG), led by the Ministry of Interior.
In late 2009, the NTF and the HLWG were combined to form a more effective national mechanism, namely the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labour Exploitation and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children (NC/STSLS), led by His Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. To improve the effectiveness of its work, the NC/STSLS established a Secretariat, led by Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior and supported by six technical Working Groups. These groups include: Prevention Working Group; Protection, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Repatriation Working Group; Law Enforcement Working Group; Justice Working Group; International Cooperation Working Group; and Child Affairs Working Group. Each group operates at both national and sub-national levels.