Cambodia has provided examples of “best practices” in the fight against human trafficking for a forthcoming Asean convention against the trafficking of people, experts said Friday at the close of a two-day conference in Phnom Penh on irregular migration and human trafficking.
The Asean region is one of the world’s top destinations and origins of trafficked persons, and a total of 959 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2012 in Cambodia alone, with 364 in Burma, 883 in Vietnam, 594 in Thailand and 193 in Laos, said Annette Lyth, regional project manager of the U.N. Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).
“These are the reported cases… most cases are not reported and there are no reliable estimates,” Ms. Lyth said. “Now, we are looking at educating people, but we also see that knowing the dangers doesn’t keep them from migrating illegally or irregularly.”
Khine Myat Chit, senior officer in the Security Cooperation Division at the Asean Secretariat, said the Asean convention on trafficking is scheduled to be ratified by the end of 2015, and Cambodia has offered some best-practice examples.
“In Cambodia, once a victim is rescued and identified and before prosecution begins, they can return from a shelter to their homes. That’s a very important arrangement,” she said.
In other Asean member states, Ms. Khine said, victims generally had to stay at shelters until their court hearings, which gives them a feeling of being confined and hinders rehabilitation. “We really admire Cambodia in terms of providing assistance to victims; that will be in the convention,” she said.
Corruption, she said, remained one of Cambodia’s—and the region’s—main issues when it comes to fighting traffickers.
“Cambodia is not an exception: When it comes to human trafficking, corruption is the major challenge. At the border areas, you see busses full of people crossing the border, and how can they cross by themselves, without corrupt officials?” she said.