Cambodia is poised to sign memorandums of understanding with Vietnam and Thailand on how to eliminate human trafficking and provide adequate protection victims of the transnational flesh trade, an official said Sunday.
The agreements are aimed at Cambodian trafficking victims who are in Thailand and Vietnamese victims in Cambodia, said You Ay, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
“If you want to help the victims of trafficking, we need to have cooperation from the victims as well from the sending country,” You Ay said, speaking at a meeting of NGO, government and police officials at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
You Ay said she recently returned from Vietnam, where she held the first official consultation with Vietnamese officials to start discussions on the agreement between the two countries.
The meeting on Friday, organized by the NGO Afesip, was held to discuss the fate of 21 Vietnamese girls and women rescued from brothels during a raid in the Svay Pak red-light district on March 29.
A total of 37 girls and women—some as young as 5—where rescued during the brothel raid. The authorities took the 10 youngest trafficking victims to a safehouse in Phnom Penh and brought the remaining 27 to the NGO Afesip, with offices in Phnom Penh.
Six of the 27 Vietnamese girls and women brought to Afesip left the NGO, and at least 16 out of the original 27 had expressed an interest to return to Vietnam as soon as possible, Afesip officials said.
The future of the trafficking victims remained unclear on Friday, as government officials, NGO officials and representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy discussed whether they would repatriate the girls, what kind of temporary services they would be receiving and what their legal status in Cambodia is.
Several NGO workers questioned Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, the head of the embassy’s consular section, on how the Vietnamese government handles repatriation of trafficking victims, and why it has taken so long in the past.
“From the Vietnamese side, we have been cooperating with the Cambodian authorities to deal with the problem,” he said on Friday.
“We have to verify if the [victims] are Vietnamese, and inform the Vietnamese authorities who will then check the information.”