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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.
I.1 Types of human trafficking
1. 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 privileges, where the person has not offered him/herself voluntarily.”
2. Sexual Exploitation
In term of recruitment, traffickers resort to deception, in particular through false
promises of well-paid jobs or opportunities to study abroad. In many cases, victims find themselves abroad, locked in apartments, with their passports confiscated by traffickers who coerce them to work in prostitution through threats, use of force, abuse and rape. Very often, the victims are promised their freedom only after earning their purchase price, as well as their
travel and visa costs, through prostitution.
3. Organ removal
After sexual exploitation, the most visible form of exploitation of human trafficking is organ removal. The victims of this kind of exploitation mostly are children. The children were removed their organ for the purpose of begging and peddling (selling small equipment, flowers and cigarettes).
4. Forced marriage
Forced marriage is a practice with deep historical roots in which at least one of
the party is married against his/her will and consent. Today, forced marriage can also be linked to human trafficking. Despite being recognized as a human rights violation and being condemned by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), 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.
5. Illicit adoption
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. Due to unclear family’s plan or unwanted pregnancy, parents often sell their kids to buyers for the purpose of adoption. In some case, unlucky children were sold to cruel families which force them to serve as domestic servants or slaves.
I.2 Trafficker and the Trafficked
1. Who are the traffickers?
Traffickers can be involved in various functions (as recruiters, transporters or exploiters) and in various activities during the different stages of the process (Traffickers can be men or women of any age. Women play a role during the recruitment and exploitation phases. Male traffickers with varying degrees of seniority within the trafficking network act as recruiters, transporters and managers during the exploitation phase.
Increasingly, females may also perform these roles.
2. Who are the victims?
Adult women are most frequently reported to be trafficked, followed by children. Plus, men are victims of human trafficking as well.
II. Current situation
Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. Cambodian men, women, and children are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Thailand, Malaysia, Macao, and Taiwan. Men are trafficked for forced labor in the agriculture, fishing, and construction industries. Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in factories or as domestic servants. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in organized begging rings, soliciting, street vending, and flower selling. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Rehabilitations found that 76 percent of trafficked persons returned from Thailand had come from families who owned land, 93 percent owned their own house and had no debt on the land or house, and 47 percent stated that their mother was the facilitator of their trafficking. As the transition, Cambodia is a transit country for victims trafficked from Vietnam to Thailand. Cambodia is a destination country for women and children who are trafficked from Vietnam and China for sexual exploitation. Common destinations for trafficking victims are Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanouk Ville. A 2005 report estimated that 2,000 victims in Cambodia have been trafficked into sexual exploitation, approximately 80 percent of whom were Vietnamese women and girls.
Internal trafficking in Cambodia is thought to be predominantly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking for sexual exploitation is mainly to urban and tourist areas, including to Phnom Penh and to Sihanouk Ville. Increasingly, young women are being deceptively recruited to work in karaoke bars. These women are employed under the pretence of a job in a ‘restaurant’ or as a waitress in an entertainment complex, and while they are often not physically forced to have sex with clients, the women face constant harassment in a sexually exploitative environment.
Trafficking in children, particularly very young children and children with a disability are also recruited to sell sweets 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, logging, factory work and agriculture. There is an emerging body of research that is concerned about Cambodian men being trafficked to work in Thailand’s fishing industry and in construction and factory work in Malaysia.15 Cambodian men who are lured into working on Thai fishing boats report appalling conditions, trapped and isolated, they suffer from long working hours, dangerous working conditions and physical abuse.
III. Causes and Effects of human trafficking in Cambodia
There are many causes of human trafficking in Cambodia. Poverty is an important factor which has increased women and children’s vulnerability to human traffickers particularly the poor and unemployed due to their willingness to join or their low level of awareness on the dangers associated with human trafficking. Poverty again is considered as the main driver behind their decisions to migrate over sea 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.
IV. Solutions of Cambodian Government
Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. Therefore, The Royal Government of Cambodia does not stand still without taking any actions. 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 these, 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, the power of investigate all forms of trafficking, and it is also a powerful tool in efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and have them face 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 to provide protection to victims of trafficking, while continuing to rely on NGOs and international organizations. Victims are not treated as criminals. Law enforcement and immigration officials implemented formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups and refer them to provincial and municipal Departments of Social Affairs. 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 providing legal, educational, and counseling services while awaiting repatriation. Last but definitely not least mechanism is the prevention. The Royal Government of Cambodia demonstrated solid 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 indicates the first time has coordinated anti-trafficking efforts across government ministries and agencies, and also formally includes civil society. In collaboration 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. For instance, On May 6, 2005 the government and the other five member states of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) met in Phnom Penh and agreed to approve the plan of action developed in March 2005 in Hanoi.
Recommendations for Cambodia
I would recommend Cambodian government continue implementation of the comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and provide training for law enforcement and government officials on the new law. Moreover, significantly improve the number of prosecutions, convictions, and punishments of trafficking offenders, particularly in areas outside the capital are also should be taking into considerations. Besides these, Cambodia should and must try to make greater efforts to prosecute, convict, and criminally punish public officials complicit in trafficking; hold labor recruiting agencies criminally responsible for labor trafficking by means of fraudulent recruitment. What is more, the government should continue to enhance interagency cooperation and collaboration with civil society; create concrete benchmarks for the provincial working groups 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. There is also some recommendation from the U.S. Department of State recommends that the Cambodia Government should pass and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and make greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials who profit from or are involved in trafficking. 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.” In other words, the needs and rights of victims should be considered at every stage in proceedings. Furthermore, in order to prevent and protect successfully, the demand should be reduced since the demand reduction must be linked to the prevention and protection. Another recommendation is the establishing comprehensive policies. The complexities of the trafficking problem require efforts by relevant entities at the local, national, regional, and international levels. It is vitally to form partnership with intergovernmental organizations, governments, NGOs, international organizations, communities and families confronted with trafficking.
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