Amid numerous reports of Cambodian women being trafficked to China and men being used as forced labor on fishing boats, the U.S.’ latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report again said Cambodia is not doing enough to combat human trafficking.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the report on Monday and Cambodia—for the third consecutive year—was placed on the “Tier 2 Watch List,” where it has been since it was downgraded from “Tier 2” in 2013.
The report notes that the country is making “significant efforts” to stop human trafficking.
“Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period,” it says.
It adds that no officials were prosecuted for their complicity in trafficking rings, and names corruption as a major obstacle in that effort.
“Endemic corruption at all levels of the Cambodian government severely limited the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding traffickers accountable,” it says.
The annual report places countries on three tiers, with the first being the best and the third being the worst.
Although the report says that the trafficking of women and children for sex, both within Cambodia and abroad, is still a major problem, there has also been a rise in the number of men being trafficked.
“Male Cambodians are increasingly recruited in Thailand for work on fishing boats and subsequently subjected to forced labor on Thai-owned vessels in international waters,” it says, adding that Cambodians have also been trafficked to Malaysia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Fiji, Senegal and South Africa.
The TIP report is one of the most comprehensive looks at human trafficking worldwide, but anti-human trafficking groups have criticized this year’s report for being politically motivated.
In a statement released on Monday, Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, said the decision to upgrade Malaysia from Tier 3 to Tier 2 was the result of the U.S.’ ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“Allowing political interests to influence how governments are held accountable for this horrendous crime calls into question both the TIP Report’s integrity and the United States’ commitment to preventing human trafficking,” Ms. Sperber said.
However, Ly Vichuta, director of Cambodian NGO Legal Support for Children and Women, which assists with the repatriation of trafficking victims, said the report is crucial for Cambodia to keep the government in check.
“I think the report is important for all of us,” she said. “I think that until now we have had little monitoring on the trafficking issues apart from the TIP report.”
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the fact that Cambodia again was not upgraded had little influence on the government’s efforts to fight human trafficking.
“The main purpose is not to receive a good consideration from anyone or any country,” he said. “The main purpose is to prevent human trafficking in Cambodia and to help Cambodian victims.”