Police Must Cooperate to Stop Human Trafficking, UN Says

With more than 20 percent of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand believed to be falling victim to human trafficking, there is a need to step up cooperation be­tween law enforcement agencies in both countries to better combat the crime, a UN agency representative said yesterday.

Lisa Rende Taylor, UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Traf­ficking (UNIAP) chief technical adviser, said improving cooperation between Cambodian and Thai police and border authorities is key to fighting cross-border trafficking, noting that such steps are necessary to implement the existing Cam­bodian-Thai bilateral agreements on labor migration.

“Even if you have these agreements…there has to be the operational work on the ground to underpin the work that has to be done,” Ms. Rende Taylor said.

Cambodia and Thailand did not yet have such cooperation, whereas Thai and Burmese police have al­ready established close cooperation to combat human trafficking, Ms. Rende Taylor said during a break at a UNIAP workshop in Phnom Penh, where officials from the six Greater Mekong Subregion countries met to discuss such police cooperation.

A 2010 UNIAP study found that 23 percent of all Cambodian labor migrants in Thailand fall victim to human trafficking, which it defined as cheating, exploiting, restricting the movements or withholding pay of migrant workers.

Estimates of the number of Cam­bodian labor migrants entering Thailand vary from 100,000 to more than 200,000 workers annually.

Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said Cambodian and Thai border police already hold meetings to deal with cross-border trafficking, adding, however, that he didn’t know how often both side met.

Moeun Tola, head of the Com­munity Legal Education Center (CLEC)’s labor program, said Thai-Cambodian police cooperation on combating human trafficking was only taking place on a very limited scale.

He said CLEC—which deals with dozens of trafficking cases annually—had only ever seen one case in which Thai and Cambodian police had cooperated to thwart a cross-border trafficking crime.

“There is very slow action [along the border]; and from time to time we also hear that police there are assisting people in illegally crossing the border,” Mr. Tola said, adding that only the Interior Ministry was actively combating trafficking.


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