At an event marking National Anti-Human Trafficking Day in Phnom Penh on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that officials who collude with traffickers must be punished.
“In case officials are found to have committed or colluded with offenders by exploiting interests by legal or illegal means, these officials must be penalized according to the law,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech to hundreds of government officials at Koh Pich Theater.
“I warn any officials who are colluding, cooperating, and benefiting from interests of offenders of human trafficking to immediately be taken off” the case, Mr. Hun Sen said.
The U.S.’ 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report said that government officials in Cambodia who are complicit in trafficking are never prosecuted.
“Endemic corruption at all levels of the Cambodian government severely limited the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding traffickers accountable,” the report says, also noting that the country is putting significant effort into reducing human trafficking.
In his speech, the prime minister also commended the efforts being made by the government, NGOs and private firms to fight trafficking and violence.
“We know that [some cases of] human trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and children, domestic violence, rape and drug crimes were prevented and resolved, which is a good result,” he said.
“But all these issues are still a problem for us,” he added. “The government is committed to fighting human trafficking, especially of women and children, and will cooperate with organizations, and other countries and regions and the world.”
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he welcomed the prime minister’s call for stronger legal action against complicit officials.
“There remains a gap in law enforcement because some officials collude with offenders,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “If there was no collusion with officials, how can offenders bring people across borders?” he added.