The US State Department’s anti-human trafficking office is not optimistic that the Cambodian government will take the necessary steps to avoid sanctions for its anti-trafficking efforts, a US official said Friday.
The US downgraded Cambodia on its anti-trafficking watchdog list on June 3, following its handling of the Afesip case. Subsequent sanctions could be imposed by Oct 1.
“I’m not at all optimistic,” about Cambodia taking sufficient steps to avoid sanctions, Mark Taylor, senior coordinator for reports at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said from Bangkok.
“The Prime Minister’s statements do not offer much hope,” he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 8 said he was not interested in the US having downgraded Cambodia, and pointed the finger at the US for bombing Cambodia in the 1970s.
Countries that have a constructive relationship with the US tend to cooperate with the State Department, and “role up their sleeves, tackle the task in hand,” and push to avoid sanctions, Taylor said.
He warned that the US could oppose aid to Cambodia at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank if sanctions are applied, adding: “Those [aid] packages are quite large.”
Government Spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to speak to a reporter Friday.
The US has asked Cambodia to reinvestigate the Chai Hour II Hotel, and to arrest and prosecute a specific number of human traffickers and complicit government officials, Taylor said.
The US has not named specific officials to the Cambodian government, he said, and declined to say how many arrests have been requested. He also alleged that increased bureaucracy has hampered the Interior Ministry’s anti-trafficking efforts.
Brigadier General Un Sokunthea, head of the Interior Ministry’s anti-trafficking department, declined to comment on the number of recent trafficking arrests.
“We’re working on it,” she said.