Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng brushed off a US report on human trafficking that put Cambodia on the list of worst offenders, saying the Cambodian government has taken action against traffickers.
“So far we have arrested many. Whether the US knows this or not, I don’t know,” Sar Kheng said after returning from Australia. “What status the US wants to give Cambodia is up to the US.”
A US State Department report released earlier this week panned Cambodia’s attempts to fight human trafficking, saying the government “was not making significant efforts” to deal with the problem.
Because of this, Cambodia was placed this year in “Tier 3,” a designation for countries whose anti-trafficking efforts “do not fully comply with the [US’] minimum standards.”
The report also mentions similar crimes like baby selling. The US has suspended adoptions from Cambodia following allegations of baby selling, though Sar Kheng said if corruption existed in the adoption process it is “not only Cambodian officials who are involved, but US officials and adoptive parents also.”
Sar Kheng said he also discussed human trafficking with Australian officials, who thanked the Cambodian government for the recent arrest of former Khmer Rouge military commander Sam Bith, who was wanted in connection with the 1994 train ambush in which Australian David Wilson was kidnapped and later executed.
Last year, Cambodia was placed in Tier 2 by the State Department, meaning that while the minimum standards were not being met, the government at least showed an effort to combat trafficking.
Aided by corruption, a poorly trained police force and a booming sex trade, human trafficking remains one of Cambodia’s top problems, and is seen by traffickers as either a lucrative destination or easy gateway to other countries.
Speaking before the Council of Ministers Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government had to accept “the truth” about Cambodia’s trafficking problems, according to council spokesman Penn Thol.
But Penn Thol also pointed out that this truth was often not as easily defined as critics suggest.
“What about the difficulty Cambodia faces when foreign men come and marry Cambodian girls, only to sell them when they return to their home countries?” Penn Thol asked. “Were we wrong? If we did not allow them to marry, we would be accused of taking away their rights.”