US Gives Gov’t List of Tasks To Avoid Sanctions

The US has asked the Cambodian government to arrest five un­named officials on charges of complicity with human traffickers, close five brothels and rescue 100 trafficking victims if it wants to avoid sanctions, according to information ob­tained Thursday.

The US State Department also wants Cambodia to arrest 10 hu­man traffickers and convict three, and to reinvestigate the Afesip raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel, according to information provided by an official familiar with the case.

Cambodia was downgraded on the US anti-trafficking watchdog list on June 3 because of the government’s handling of the Afesip case. The US said sanc­tions could be im­posed by Oct 1.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday that the US should provide evidence if it wants government officials arrested.

“We need to arrest based on evidence,” Khieu Kanharith said. “They just tell us to arrest. It is wrong.”

“The US should depend on a lawful form,” he added.

A US Embassy official said Thursday that Cambodia “must take ag­gressive measures to prosecute and convict human traffickers and public officials found to be in­volved in trafficking, and confront cor­rup­tion in the judicial system that hampers the prosecution of traf­fickers.”

Mu Sochua, former minister of women’s affairs and now an opposition party member, said US recommendations are feasible and fair.

She wrote in an e-mail that some officials “are known to have relationships with young women and girls. Some of these girls could be their own children or [grand]children.”

“It is a widespread practice, from lower-ranking to middle-level to high-ranking officials,” she wrote. “It cannot be tolerated.”

But some observers have questioned the logic of the US shopping-list-style approach, warning that officials who have fallen out with stron­ger factions of the Cam­bo­dian government could be ar­res­ted in order to meet the requirements.

Ambassador John Miller, head of the US State Department’s Of­fice to Monitor and Combat Traffic­king in Persons, said from Washington on Monday that avoiding sanctions is a matter of political will.

“There are many countries that are just as poor that are doing far more,” to combat trafficking, he said.

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