US: Unlikely Cambodia Will Avoid Sanctions

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.

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