While Cambodia has made significant efforts in combating human trafficking both locally and regionally, much work remains to be done, especially in the justice and interior ministries, a high-profile conference concluded on Wednesday.
As co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng gave the closing address, he laid out a seven-point plan that echoed many of the suggestions made during the two-day conference co-hosted by the embassies of Thailand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the US.
Strengthening relevant laws, focusing on education and job creation in poverty-stricken areas, increasing efforts to repatriate trafficking victims and expanding international cooperation, were some of the most frequently made suggestions to prevent trafficking.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who opened the conference on Tuesday, said the interior and justice ministries are crucial to the process of examining laws and proposing remedies to fill the gaps.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Ung Kantha Phavy said the importance of the two ministries in anti-trafficking was also apparent at the most practical level.
When her ministry “provides information dealing with human trafficking, then the Ministry of Interior is going to enforce the arrest. And the Ministry of Justice is the one who needs to punish traffickers,” Ung Kantha Phavy said.
But former women’s affairs minister Mu Sochua was skeptical of the government progress touted during the conference.
Increasing poverty and the slow pace of judicial reform remain major obstacles in the fight against human trafficking, Mu Sochua, now an opposition party cabinet member, said by phone Wednesday.
“With very poor performance of judicial reforms…what can we do?” she asked. “There’s so much to do before progress can take place…. It’s like a spider web.”
While some individual trafficking suspects are successfully prosecuted, Mu Sochua said the government has largely failed to crack local and international trafficking networks. And in spite of the government’s stated commitments, its failures will continue “until you see real reform,” she said. But for now, she said, “I don’t see political will.”