Human trafficking is considered as one of the most problematic issues in today world’s society. Since this problem happens throughout the world, it is necessary to deal with it globally. For ASEAN level, human trafficking is one of the transnational crimes that take place across national borders or take place within one country but their consequences significantly affect another country. Likewise, Cambodia also faces with this kind of serious crime as a transit, origin, and recipient nation.
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I.1 Types of human trafficking
There are many types of human trafficking. One of them is the forced labor. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), forced labor is “a work or service exacted from a person under threat or penalty which includes penal sanctions and the loss of rights and freedom. Another type is sexual exploitation. In this type of trafficking, traffickers resort to deception in terms of recruitment particularly through the promising of well-paid jobs, yet victims who have been abroad are locked in apartments with their passports confiscated by traffickers who coerce them to work in prostitution. Victims are promised that they will get freedom only after earning for the cost of their purchase price as well as their travel and visa costs. Other type of human trafficking is organ removal, and the victims of such trafficking mostly are children. The children are removed their organ for the purpose of begging and peddling (selling small equipment, flowers and cigarettes). Besides these, forced marriage also considered as one type of human trafficking. The practice of forced marriage occurs on a significant scale today. In Cambodian society, especially in rural areas we can see that parents always forced their daughter to marry to foreigner on the hope of improving their living condition. Unfortunately, their daughter somehow exploited by foreigner as domestic workers or sex slaves. Last but not least, illegal adoption of children is also another form of human trafficking since it involves the selling and buying children or baby illegally between parents and buyers. In this kind of trafficking, due to unclear family plan or unwanted pregnancy, parents often sell their kids to buyers for the purpose of adoption as they are poor. This is also kind of human trafficking since it is not legally recognized.
After being aware of all types of human trafficking, it is also important to know who the trafficker and the trafficked are. Traffickers are recruiters, transporters or exploiters. However, mostly women play a role during the recruitment and exploitation process. For instance, she might be the one who go to contact the victim directly. Then, male trafficker is the transporters and managers during the exploitation process within the trafficking network. For the trafficked person, adult women are mostly known as victims followed by children. Plus, men are victims of human trafficking as well.
II. Current situation
Victims of human trafficking in Cambodia particularly men, women, and children are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Thailand, Malaysia, Macao, and Taiwan. Specifically, men are trafficked for forced labor in the agriculture, fishing, and construction industries while women are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in factories or as domestic servants. For instance, they might be serving as house keeper and maid for looking after their boss’s child. Furthermore, it is not surprisingly that children are being trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor such as begging, flower selling and so on. As the transition, Cambodia is a transit country for human trafficking from Vietnam to Thailand; and as the destination, Cambodia is a destination country for victims of sexual exploitation from Vietnam and China especially, women and children. In fact, internal trafficking in Cambodia is considered to be predominantly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation basically in urban and tourist areas, including to Phnom Penh and to Sihanouk Ville. Increasingly, young women are being recruited to work in karaoke, beer garden, bar, club and so on. These women are employed as a job in a ‘restaurant’ or as a waitress in an entertainment place. Even though they are often not physically forced to have sex with clients, the women still face with sexual harassment committed by their customer while they work. Besides this, currently trafficking in children, particularly very young children and children who are disabling are also recruited to sell stuffs which in clued newspaper and flowers on the streets. A small number are recruited for work in other sectors, such as domestic work or in restaurants. Trafficking from Cambodia also takes place for the purpose of labor exploitation in a number of industries, including construction and so on. What is more, Cambodian men are being trafficked to work in Thailand’s fishing industry suffer from long working hours, dangerous working conditions and physical abuse.
III. Causes and Effects of human trafficking in Cambodia
Human trafficking in Cambodia is caused by many factors. One of the most important causes of human trafficking is poverty. Poverty is an important factor which has increased women and children’s vulnerability to human traffickers particularly the poor and unemployed since they have will to join or they are level of awareness on the dangers associated with human trafficking is low. Poverty again is considered as the main root behind their decisions that make they decide to migrate for work. In addition to poverty, the lack of education and unemployment there are also significant social and culture factors that contribute to human trafficking. For instance, culture norms that perpetuate a lack of respect women increase the likelihood of them being exploited. Similarly, the perception of children as wage earners also increases the likelihood of them being trafficked. Moreover, the low level of education, family debt, agriculture failure, lack of land and off-season work were pushing people to the big cities or other countries as the men go into construction, women into services and prostitution. Last but definitely not least, broken families, disaster, uneven economic development, lack of border controls, socio-economic imbalance between the rural and urban areas, increased tourism, unsafe migration are also significant contributing factors to human trafficking.
After getting to know the roots of human trafficking, it is also important to understand its effects. In fact, human trafficking has many consequences. First, the spread of HIV/AIDS is one of the consequences of human trafficking. For instance, many victims of human trafficking are physically and sexually abused. Trafficked women are often not in a position of negotiate safe sex, or lack access to education about HIV/AIDS. Therefore, they can transmit the disease to the next customers. That is the reason that HIV/AIDS can spread from one person to another person easily. The victims not only suffer from HIV/AIDS, but also often suffer from stigmatization by their communities. Moreover, many are treated as criminals by officials in countries of transit and destination due to their irregular status in the country, and their status as illegal workers or sex workers. What is more, human trafficking is generating the violation of human right. As we know that the victims are forced to do the prostitute and other kind of exploitations. In this case, there will be a human right violation concern.
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IV. Solutions of Cambodian Government
In fact, The Royal Government of Cambodia does not stand still without taking any actions. For this reason, the government has implemented several mechanisms. The first mechanism is the prosecution. It is making some many significant efforts; for example, the government created a national anti-trafficking task force to improve the interagency response to trafficking and coordination with civil society, increased law enforcement action against traffickers and complicit officials, and undertook prevention activities. Besides this, in February 2008, Cambodia’s new Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation was declared wisely and went into effect immediately. This law provides enforcement authorities and the power of investigate all forms of trafficking, and it is also a powerful tool in efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and make them face with strict punishments. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported 53 trafficking cases from April 2007 to March 2008, thirty-five cases were sex trafficking involving 60 victims and 11 were labor trafficking cases involving 106 victims. The MOI reported that 65 traffickers were arrested during the reporting period. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted 52 trafficking offenders. The MOI Department of Anti-Trafficking and Juvenile Protection reported 52 cases, involving 65 trafficking offenders. There is also a figure that we get from non-state actors such as NGOs. For instance, NGOs reported 19 labor trafficking cases. In February 2008, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Commerce to annul business licenses for marriage agencies, calling that kind of business is also a form of human trafficking. Another mechanism of combating human trafficking in Cambodia is the protection. The Royal Government of Cambodia improved its efforts in providing protection to victims of trafficking while continuing to rely on NGOs and international organizations. Victims are not treated as criminals. For instance, the victims are provided with education or skill in order to make them have jobs to support their living. For foreign victims, they are provided temporary residence in shelters, education, and counseling services while they are waiting for repatriation. Last but definitely not least mechanism is the prevention. The Royal Government of Cambodia demonstrated concrete efforts to prevent trafficking. In April 2007, the government established a National Task Force (NTF) comprising 11 government ministries, three government agencies, and more than 200 international and local NGOs. The NTF has an oversight mechanism known as the “High Level Working Group,” chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. This illustrated that this is the first time that we have such coordinated anti-trafficking efforts across government ministries and agencies, and also civil society. In coordination with civil society, the NTF launched a nationwide anti-trafficking campaign using positive messages incorporating Khmer values and cultural traditions to inspire Cambodians to take action against human trafficking. The campaign emphasized trafficking as a national priority and launched a national dialogue on trafficking via public forums across Cambodia. More interestingly, Cambodia also has international cooperation in combating human trafficking.
I would recommend Cambodian government continue the implementation of the anti-trafficking mechanisms and provide law enforcement mechanisms to government officials on the new law. Moreover, significantly improve the number of prosecutions, convictions, and punishments of trafficking persons. What is more, the government should continue to enhance cooperation and collaboration with civil society under the direction of the National Task Force. Last but definitely not least, government of Cambodia should increase efforts to prosecute sex tourists and those facilitating commercial sexual exploitation of children. In addition to that, here is also another general recommendation such as protect the rights of victims. According to the UN principle on Human Rights which states that “the human rights of trafficked persons shall be at the center of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims.”, the needs and rights of victims should be considered at every stage in proceedings. Furthermore, in order to prevent and protect successfully, the demand of customers should be reduced since the demand reduction must be linked to the prevention and protection. Another recommendation is the establishing of policies. The complexities of the trafficking problem require efforts by relevant entities at the local, national, regional, and international levels. Therefore, it is vitally to form partnership with intergovernmental organizations, governments, NGOs, international organizations, communities and families confronted with trafficking.
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