Human trafficking has increased throughout the Mekong region, including an increase in Cambodian children forced into Vietnamese begging rings, participants of a two-day conference were told Monday.
The International Office of Migration plans to expand its operations throughout the region with the help of $2.5 million donated by Australia to stop it. A “sharp increase” of trafficking of women and children between Burma, Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam made expansion necessary, said Kiki van Kessel, regional project coordinator for the IOM.
“IOM in the past focused on Cambodia,” she said. “Now, we have to work for other countries.”
Last year, more than 600 Cambodians were repatriated through the organization, though some of those were trafficked again.
With the new funding, the IOM plans to expand its programs, which include capacity building of local officials, return and reintegration, and research, she said.
Cambodia is a target for foreign traffickers, especially Thailand.
Nearly 18,000 Cambodians were trafficked to Thailand last year, Unicef reported. Of those, about 2,600 were children.
Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng blamed the problem on the country’s pervasive poverty and a lack of vocational training among the rural poor. They easily tricked by recruiters from other countries, he said.