Funding for the protection, social reintegration and even the feeding of victims of human trafficking remains critically low, according to government and NGO officials.
Pierre Legros, adviser to the NGO Afesip, which cares for rescued victims of human trafficking, says his shelter is “really facing huge trouble.”
In March, after the US-based NGO International Justice Mission conducted a series of brothel raids, 37 victims were brought to Afesip. Around 25 of them remain there waiting for reintegration, says Legros, and he lacks adequate food or medicine for them.
The languishing of trafficking victims, “has always been a big problem,” said Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua. “And the ministry has asked for a bigger program…of assistance from the US to shelter and protect their physical security.”
Mu Sochua said the ministry, in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, has asked the US for up to $4 million in assistance.
“We are proposing a huge program on anti-trafficking, and we are almost sure to get it,” she said.
Officials from the US Embassy were unavailable for comment and the IOM declined to comment on the aid request.
Meanwhile, Preap Phina, bureau chief of the International Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the International Justice Mission has applied for a license to open an office in Cambodia.
In the past, IJM had been criticized for a lack of presence in Cambodia and not acting in concert with Cambodian authorities.
“We heard of their intention [to establish an office],” Mu Sochua said. “If they have an office here we can work more closely and be on the ground. We are concerned [in the past] that they were only coming for ad hoc missions.”
Prum Vutha, bureau chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-sex- trafficking unit added that IJM conducted a three-day training seminar in late March on investigation techniques and evidence gathering.
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana and Saing Soenthrith)