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Cambodia, which is one of the small developing countries in the South East Asia, has a total population of around fourteen millions and the majority of Cambodian population is living under the poverty line. Briefly speaking, Cambodia's economy relies on three main sources such as agriculture (67.9%), industries (12.7%) and services (19.5%); they largely provide work in labor force almost eight millions dollars; the GDP per capita of Cambodian people is $1900 in 2009 estimation. Although, its economy seemingly begins to grow step by step, Cambodia is still facing many of social problems which it requires various methods to deal with those issues. One of the most predominant concerns for this small country is trafficking in human. Cambodia is considered a source, a transit, a destination country for human trafficking. Women and young children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, begging, and domestic works while men are mainly trafficked for labor exploitation. The traffickers are reportedly organized crime syndicates, parents, relatives, friends, intimate partners, and neighbors.
What is human trafficking? How do we feel when we heard stories that women and young children have been traded from one place to another like goods? What can we contribute to fight against this kind of issue? Though those questions, we actually have motivation to dig on this topic and explore deeply how this kind of issue evolves in the global governance in this twenties-first century. According to the UN's definition, human trafficking is "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". Generally, trafficking in human is the results of economic and social disparities that increase the vulnerability of millions of people and it becomes a major concern for all the countries in the world. Each year, millions of men, women and children are trafficked and forced to work as bonded labors in various places such as in factories, fisheries, farms, streets and brothels. In other word, the trafficked people are used in agriculture, domestic service, mail order brides, prostitution and sweatshops. It is estimated that the number of people being trafficked worldwide is around 600,000 to 800,000. Furthermore, Human trafficking exists in every corner of the world and it can be either crossing of an international border or within the country. This problem can be found in every corner of the world not only in developed countries but it can happen in poor countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, China and so on. Although the victims of human trafficking can be everyone, most of time, women and children comprise the largest group of the victims. Talking about the causes of human trafficking, there are many factors which lead to have human trafficking in the individual states as well as in the world. They can be listed down as poverty, gender inequality, unemployment, a lack of education, and weak rule of law.
The causes of Human Trafficking:
Human trafficking, which is a process with people being abducted or recruited in the country of origin, transferred through transit regions and then exploited in the country of destination is a deep concern at global, regional and state level. It continues to increase throughout the world and it is considered as huge problem for Cambodia to deal within this contemporary society. The roots of human trafficking come from the poverty and unemployment, lack of education and gender inequality.
Poor Cambodian people, mostly women and children, are easily to fall into the human traffickers' trap since earning good condition of living is the main concern which those traffickers use to convince. Neighbor Countries such as Thailand and Vietnam are the main destinations where Cambodian men are trafficked in order to work in fisheries, construction and manufacturing while children are trafficked to work as street sellers and beggars. Moreover, women are trafficked to Malaysia, Taiwan and further field for sexual exploitation, for working as domestic servants and garment factory workers. As there are fewer jobs within the country, particularly at the rural areas, Cambodian men and women tenderly push to migrate to outside the country by hoping that their living would be better off. Based on Cambodia's census in 2008, Cambodian population is 13,395,682 in which 6,516,054 are males and 6,879,628 are females. However, among this population, 35% of Cambodians, who can earn only 0.45 per day, live below the national poverty line. It obviously shows that poverty has been a crucial factor for Cambodians to seek employment abroad such as Thailand and Vietnam. In the process of doing so these people especially women and children have been trafficked into the sex industry and exploited for labor. In addition, other factors such as landlessness, disasters, agricultural failure and uneven economic development and so on are likely to create more poverty in the society. For instance, in order to generate income, the poor have had borrowed money from dealers at high interest rates. However, due to failed agricultural crops and natural disasters, many of them were unable to deal with their debts later on. As a result, they were forced to sell their property and even the children were responsible for repaying the loan and the accumulating interest. What is more, in many cases, the women are usually convinced by a recruiter in their own villages and are offered work in with high salary and good work conditions but it isn't until later that they discover that they had been trapped into prostitution.
Other reason which also contributes to human trafficking in Cambodia is inequality of gender. Girls are in Cambodian society as well as in many societies expected to sacrifice education and security and take on responsibilities towards parents and siblings. In such situations, girls are seen as a relatively 'poor investment', and sending them away to work may seem a viable option. That is the reason why most prostitutes are women not men. Due to the social structure and the policy mechanism, Cambodian women do not have full access to services for their own basic and fundamental needs such as access to education, health service, information and others. Young girls are not protected or encouraged in education unlike boys and are often asked to stay at home to help their families. Women are not encouraged to participate in the decision-making process in economics, social and politics. This takes away women's right including the right of access to benefit and of resources. This factor has pushed women into poverty and they do not have any alternatives to make their lives better and this leads them into prostitution either out of desperation or as result of trafficking. We all aware of the many cases of mothers or parents who sold their daughters and these girls are expected to sacrifice themselves, to prostitute their bodies so as to earn money for their poor families. Last but not least, the lack of education mainly leads to child trafficking. At the time that children are not able to receive higher education, children's vulnerability to exploitation is in higher rate. Low education levels contributed to higher poverty levels which has mentioned above is the root of falling into human trafficker's tricks. In conclusion, poverty, low education and inequity of gender are three main causes which contribute in human trafficking in Cambodia. Consequently, in order to deal with this problem, it requires many hard efforts from the Royal government as well as from NGOs including legal provisions, law enforcement, and establishing reintegration policies to help returning victims achieve better living conditions.
Cambodia's mechanism against Human Trafficking:
Remarkably, Cambodia has accomplished many areas toward the development process including in the fields of political, economic, social and cultural rights along with its advance of democratization, after the post-conflict. According to the recent study made by the Overseas Development Institute (ODC) and the UN Millennium Campaigns, Cambodia is listed among 20 countries making the most absolute progress on MDGs and on track to meet the halving of poverty by 2015. In addition, talking about human trafficking issues, many counter-trafficking interventions have been carried by Royal Government of Cambodia which also plays a crucial role to enhance the legal instruments in order to diminish this problem from the society by cooperating with other related actors both on international as well as regional levels.
Put simply, on the international level, international organization such as UNIAP, ILO, IOM, UNODC put a framework agreement to combat Human trafficking though four different methods. First of all, prevention activities which include awareness-raising campaigns on human trafficking and safe migration, education and capacity building, creation of child protection networks, poverty alleviation and disaster response projects through micro-credit schemes are implemented across the country, mainly in source areas. For instance, some programs such as developing legal labor recruitment channels to Thailand, Malaysia and Korea to ensure the protection of migrant workers abroad, child safe tourism campaign to prevent trafficking in the tourism industry, community mobilization and poverty alleviation campaign in 5 key border provinces, and integrating human trafficking issues into the school curriculum are undertaken within the country. Next, there are other protection measures to provide post-harm assistance to trafficked victims including identification, rescue, repatriation, family tracing, family assessment, reintegration, short/medium/long-term shelter, education and vocational education assistance. Furthermore, prosecution involves activities relating to the criminal justice process, including investigations, apprehensions, arrests, prosecutions and convictions.
On the regional level, in 2004, within the Great-Mekong-Sub region, Cambodia, which is one the six members has jointly signed the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation against trafficking in Persons. In this MoU, it contains 34 specific commitments in the areas of policy and cooperation, preventive measures, legal frameworks, law enforcement and justice, protection, recovery and reintegration and so on. Furthermore, at the same year, Cambodia acceded to an ASEAN framework namely the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The purpose of this is to strengthen the effectiveness of states authorities in implementing laws such as prevention, investigation, prosecution of criminal cases. Moreover, as trafficking in people usually happen across the border, particularly in neighbor countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, the government of these countries agree to work bilaterally to eliminate and to assist the trafficking victims especially women and children. For example, Cambodia and Vietnam conducted a bilateral agreement to prevent and to combat offences in 1997. One year later, Cambodia and Thailand joined the treaty on extradition to promote collaboration effectiveness to combat criminal act in 1998.
Given the severity of the problem, the government had done much in term of national response to human trafficking and there are plenty of measures and activities to deal with this problem. For example, National Task Force was established in order to commit to the regional MoU agreement on elimination of trafficking of persons and providing assistance for the victims of trafficking. Furthermore, besides, working with international organizations, two ministries play highly important roles in helping the victims throughout the reintegration program. The first one is Minister of (MoSAVYR) which is working on a protection policy to provide the victims with identification, rescue, safe repatriation, rehabilitation and integration with skills, medical, education and vocational training and family tracing assessment. In 2007, MoSAVYR worked with Thailand to build transit shelter for transit and for receiving Cambodian victims from Thailand in western area, Poi Pet. The second ministry who works on this matter is the MoWA. Its activities which focus on the prevention of trafficking are implemented across the country, mainly in areas where cases of trafficking have originated from. What is more, on February 2008, Cambodia's new Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation was promulgated and went into effect immediately. This legislation provides law enforcement authorities the power to investigate all forms of trafficking and is a powerful tool in efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and have them face stringent punishments.
Challenges and difficulties toward anti-human trafficking mechanisms:
Although many concrete initiatives are used by both Royal Government of Cambodia and civil societies in combating the human trafficking within the country, we can still find out the challenges in the legal framework which are considered as the critical areas to be reformed in order to make counter trafficking measures more effective. According to the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Asian Foundation's study on the government and NGOs response on this issue in 2002, the report showed that there were a gap in the areas of prevention, protection, recovery and reintegration, coordination and cooperation.
First of all, in the part of prevention, there is a lack of information and awareness between different ministries of the Royal Government and civil society, and between NGOs and the public on trafficking, on the assistance service and the procedures to solve the problems. Media networks such as radio, newspapers, and television do not cover the whole country or focus on appropriate target groups on issues of trafficking. People do not actively provide information to authorities about trafficking and other criminal activities as they fear reprisal. There is also a lack of emphasis in program interventions on peer support groups, which actively engage victims in the communities, peer education and child participation in formulating strategies to prevent trafficking. Although, the "Friend Educates Friend and Friend Helps Friend" strategy has been introduced but so far the results are still limited and child protection and monitoring networks are still relatively new and do not cover the whole country. Moreover, it is perceived that it is difficult to mobilize villagers to learn about and tackle their problems because they are often desperately poor and have limited education. Furthermore, vocational training facilitates gainful employment work, but the vocational training generally offered is still not completely appropriate for the local employment market.
Second, taking about the rehabilitation and reintegration, many shelters are not providing adequate services; in certain provinces, there are practically no services for trafficked victims because shelters that do exist are often under resourced. Vocational training activities, which are usually provided to trafficked victims while they are in the shelters, often do not lead to gainful employment, increasing the risk of victims returning to prostitution and other forms of exploitative occupation. In addition, standards have not been set for shelters and registration of shelters is erratic; compliance to whatever regulations are set by the government is not well monitored. The main social players in the communities lack the knowledge and education to offer support to trafficked victims and their families, or those that have been subjected to forced labor, and who have returned to their villages. Society stigmatizes children and women who have been trafficked and exploited; the traditional belief is that non-virgin single women are unfit to marry. As a result, girls or women who have been raped or who are thought to have been a sex worker may be rejected by her family and community.
Last but not least, the legal framework which is imposed by the Royal Government does not work effectively. The 1996 law on the combat of human kidnapping and trafficking and human business which is in effect still has a number of shortcomings and the new draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Legal Development Institute of Japan on the suppression human trafficking and sex trade has not been adopted. Awareness of the laws and legal understanding among Cambodian people is still weak or limited. Furthermore, laws and other letters of norm have not been strictly and thoroughly implemented, which has enabled some offenders to escape arrest and prosecution. Some victims, service providers and authorities still do not understand the importance of evidence for charging the offenders involved in a case and they have not cooperated with the competent authorities, which has allowed some offenders to escape from justice. Some massage and karaoke parlors and nightclubs have become brothels for sexual exploitation, which makes it difficult for the competent authorities to inspect. Most importantly, there are no judges who have special skills to investigate human trafficking cases and the legal aid services still do not have the necessary expertise in human trafficking cases. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Royal Government of Thailand on the bilateral cooperation to eliminate the trafficking of women and children and to provide assistance to victims of trafficking which has already been signed still has not been implemented. To sum up, the challenges of anti-human trafficking mechanisms are found in three different areas such as in prevention, protection and rehabilitation. As a result, we can see that many recommendations or suggestions have been proposed in order to reform those mechanisms of Cambodia government as well as other local and international NGOs.
In order to response to the mentioned challenging, recommendations and necessary measurements are suggested to strengthen the existing methods and legal frameworks. In addition, the reform should not be done simply on the part of the Cambodian government but it should be implied on the civil societies such as NGOs and other recruitment agencies as well.
In term of the government, policy makers, local authorities and law enforcers as well as members of the courts and justice system should view trafficked persons as victims rather than criminals. The victims need to be treated sympathetically and accordingly their access to justice needs to be supported and trafficking victims should be considered as witnesses. Moreover, increasing cooperation and professional cooperation between the police, military police, prosecutors, judges, and national and international organizations and NGOs is other main method to enhance the quality of measurement; the government should provide further training for police, prosecutors, and judges - both separately and jointly, including in the use of forensic evidence and in working with victims as witnesses.
The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training should take a proactive role in ensuring the legal employment status and rights of migrant workers under the labor laws of receiving countries, and to monitor and take action against recruitment agencies/employers who do not respect the human rights of migrant workers and who do not follow the labor laws. In addition, the government must develop a comprehensive migration management system that includes the promotion of safe migration, establishment of safe remittance and investment systems, provision of consular services for migrants overseas, and assisting the return and reintegration of returned migrants. The number of small-scale and medium-scale enterprises should be created for Strengthening and broadening the economy and to give the opportunities for the victims of trafficking to benefit from these economic sectors and to improve their living conditions.
NGOs should raise attention to the abuses and problems faced by migrant workers at governmental and multilateral meetings and press for reforms. Provide support services such as legal aid, health care, shelter, job training, finance management, counseling, pre-departure training, and reintegration program to migrant workers. Empower (women) migrants through human rights and gender training, awareness raising on the pros and cons of migration, workshops on self-help in healthcare, HIV/AIDS, and reproductive health, emphasizing a rights-based, participatory approach. Facilitate discussions and information sharing between migrant-focused NGOs, community-based organizations, trade unions, migrant workers and the government, with the objectives of understanding the migration dynamics, identifying the problems, and lobbying the government to address the gaps. Moreover, they should create a Community Village Funds to support people who wish to migrate. A similar community-based migration team can provide advice and counseling to people who want to migrate and to act as a watchdog for trafficking/smuggling cases. the Cambodian Government must establish an independent body to monitor and to enforce stricter regulation and licensing of Cambodian recruitment agencies. This watchdog should receive the highest level of cooperation and support from the government and could be administered by a UN or a national NGO. The roles and responsibilities of recruitment agencies need to be better addressed, through stricter regulation systems that carry the threat of removal of license for repeated incidents of abuse.