Cambodia Says Cultural Barriers Are Impeding Human Trafficking Fight

41d9e70b-a4d9-4ba3-b9fd-d88f0f721386Reported by Samean Yun and Ouk Saborey for RFA’s Khmer Service on June 20, 2013—
“Cambodia on Thursday lashed out at the U.S. State Department for downgrading the country’s ranking in its annual report on human trafficking, saying cultural barriers were hampering government efforts to combat the problem.

The State Department in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report downgraded Cambodia a notch to the Tier 2 Watch List—the scale’s second-lowest rank—from Tier 2 for failing to “demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year.”

Cambodia’s Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Thursday said that the U.S. had failed to recognize Cambodia’s efforts to resolve its human trafficking issues.

“The report is just a show—they don’t know how much hard work we have done which has already led to great results,” he said.

The State Department refers to Cambodia as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

“Cambodia is moving in a downward direction,” U.S. ambassador-at-large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca told RFA on Wednesday, adding that “efforts there are falling off on the part of the Cambodian government.”

He pointed to the government’s “mixed record on victim protection,” saying that despite nearly 1,000 victims identified, “almost all victim care is done by nongovernmental organizations.”

“We think that what is necessary in Cambodia is for the Cambodian government to take victim care on its own,” he said.

According to this year’s TIP report, Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice reported 50 prosecutions resulting in 44 convictions, a decrease from the 102 prosecutions and 62 convictions reported in the previous year.

Corruption “at all levels” also blocked anti-trafficking efforts, the TIP report said.”

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