Cambodian men seeking work in Thailand are far more likely than women to be cheated and trafficked, according to the preliminary findings of an upcoming UN report.
For a report by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, 400 Cambodian laborers were interviewed after being deported from Thailand through the Poipet border checkpoint between August and September of 2009.
According to the study, 40 percent of the men interviewed reported being cheated or deceived, compared to 10 percent of the women. Though some cases were ambiguous, they also reported that 20 percent of the men were “clearly trafficked” compared to only 3 percent of the women.
Twenty-three percent of the group reported being trafficked overall. The authors defined trafficking as when job seekers who were cheated, exploited, at least partially restricted in their movements, and had at least some of their pay withheld.
UNIAP national project coordinator Lim Tith said the findings challenged the common perceptions about human trafficking in the region.
“In most cases people think women are more likely to fall into this situation,” he said.
The report offered a few ideas for the disparity, saying men are more likely to use employment brokers, who increase the chance that they will be tricked into crossing the border. Though women are more likely to travel with family members, men more often travel with friends, who provide less protection against deception.
Mr Tith noted that the study might underreport the trafficking of women in the sex industry because of their lower deportation rates.
“We have to do more studies,” he conceded.
The authors also make a series of recommendations, such as training Thai and Cambodian border personnel to detect trafficking victims and making it easier for Cambodians to migrate for work legally.
Government officials “have taken action but given limited resources they need help from NGOs and civil society,” Mr Tith said, suggesting they could for example help screen deportees. And while he said both sides would welcome the arrangement, bureaucracy and other factors often get in their way.
Bith Kimhong, director of the anti-human trafficking bureau at the Interior Ministry, said the government was taking steps to crack down on trafficking along the border and elsewhere.
“We have local police and authorities who work to search for the brokers with the help of people who learn and hear of the problem,” he said. “I have told the border police to search the locations that the illegal migration usually takes place.”