Implementing Trafficking Law Proves Onerous

Despite Cambodia’s new anti-human trafficking law having provisions to tackle trafficking of citizens within the country and aid nationals abroad, progress has been slow because of poor coordination be­tween government agencies and NGOs as well as insufficient regional cooperation, officials and experts said Monday.

Cambodia, which ratified the UN’s Palermo Protocol in 2007 to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, is currently focusing efforts on awareness campaigns and training for police, judges and prosecutors, said It Rady, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice.

“But frontline officers and social workers still need some training,” he said via a translator at a forum in Phnom Penh Monday. Coop­er­ation between national and provincial authorities also needs to im­prove, as does the dialogue be­tween the government and NGOs working against human trafficking, he added.

Mr Rady made his remarks during the two-day Inter Country Consultative Dialogue on Com­bating Human Trafficking forum, which ends today. Several senior government officials, including Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi and Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng, attended the meeting hosted by the High Level Working Group to Combat Human Trafficking, Smug­­gling, Labor and Sexual Commercial Exploitation. Dele­gations from Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Malaysia also attended the meeting to discuss national anti-human trafficking strategies and the possibility of increased cooperation among the countries.

There are no exact numbers of how many Cambodians are victims of trafficking abroad or how many are trafficked within Cam­bodia every year, but because the country is a destination, a supplier and a transit country for human trafficking it is important to have an adequate legal framework to tackle the problem, said police Brigadier General Ten Borany of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection unit.

The new anti-human trafficking law from 2008 has clarified the concept of trafficking and is in line with the Palermo Protocol, he said. It also allows Cambodia to pros­ecute na­tionals who commit crimes abroad if the perpetrator or victim is Khmer, he continued, but there are still a few problems with implementing the new law.

“Challenges we face [include] limited cooperation between civil society and government stakeholders [and] national data collection is not fully developed,” Mr Borany said via a translator.

Even though Cambodia is doing many things right to combat hu­man trafficking, there need to be strong legal structures in neighboring countries and regional treaties regulating things such as extradition and sharing of information, said Albert Moskowits, a judicial and prosecutorial adviser for Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project.

“Once you have uniform laws in place the countries can start talking…. You have to have treaties in place…and police and investigators, etc, should know how to use these treaties,” Mr Moskowits said in an interview after the meeting.

Improved regional cooperation is also important, since the current economic downturn is likely to make the problem of human trafficking worse, he added.

Cambodia, Thailand and South Korea have all signed the Palermo Protocol, but so far only Cam­bodia has ratified the treaty. Viet­nam and Malaysia have yet to sign the UN protocol. Additionally, Cambodia has had memorandums of understanding to combat human trafficking with Thailand since 2003 and with Vietnam since 2005, but be­cause an MOU is not legally binding it is up to individual countries to act on it, said Sam­leang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile organization Action Pour Les Enfants.

“There are all these words of cooperation but there is not that much cooperation…. The implementation of these MOUs are very limited,” he said.

As an example, Mr Seila mentioned several cases of men being investigated for child abuse and other crimes in Thailand who then moved to Cambodia, where they could continue to commit crimes, as there is no system for sharing information.

“Cambodia alone cannot put an end to this problem. We need to have each country share information in a timely fashion,” he said. “We all know it is a problem, so why don’t we all work to solve the problem?”


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