Cambodia must improve its ability to prosecute those who organize and profit from the trafficking of humans, Mu Sochua, Minister of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs, said Monday at the opening of the ministry’s new Counter-Trafficking Bureau.
Cambodian courts have interpreted anti-trafficking laws too narrowly, allowing sex offenders and human traffickers to walk free, Mu Sochua said.
The new bureau will focus on improving the capacity of the Women’s Affairs Ministry to deal with trafficking issues by sensitizing its members to the problem, which government officials admit is reaching epidemic levels.
“We respect the independence of the court but we need to build the capacity of the women’s ministry to push the courts in their implementation of the law,” Mu Sochua said.
Chanthol Oung, director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, said between 400 and 800 Cambodian women and children are trafficked to Thailand each month to work as prostitutes or beggars.
Some police officers are also involved in sexual exploitation of children by either protecting brothel owners or directly trafficking children, Chanthol Oung said.
Mu Sochua also announced an intended amendment to the country’s trafficking law that will define a minor as anyone younger than 18 years old—compared to the current limit of younger than 15 years old.
“Their are thousands of girls and boys between 15 and 18 years who suffer from trafficking and sexual exploitation and do not have justice because they are [outside the trafficking law],” Mu Sochua said.
The International Organization for Migration’s Andreas Lind, coordinator of a three-year anti-trafficking project with the Women’s Ministry, said 500 staff members at the ministry will be trained by both agencies in trafficking prevention measures.
The training will then be extended to 1,500 staff members at other ministries, Lind said. Anti-trafficking information will also be publicized through national media.