CAMBODIA

Cambodia Quick Facts:

Capital: Phnom Penh
Population: 14.86 million (2012)
Unofficial: 15.25 million (2014 estimate)
Estimated rural population: 80%
GDP per capita: US$ 944.4 (2012)
Human Development Index (HDI): 0.543 (2012)
HDI Rank: 138 (2012)
Neighbouring Countries: Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam

Contact Details:

Mr. Lim Tith
National Project Coordinator
tith.lim@undp.org
Direct line: +855 23 211 240 ext. 332

UN-ACT Cambodia
UNDP Security Building
No. 164, Street 51 or Pasteur, Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang, PO Box 877
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855 23 211 240 ext. 334
Fax: +855-23-216-257/721-042/210-214

National Trafficking Trends
  • Country of origin, destination and transit for trafficked persons
  • In addition to countries in the region, Cambodians are trafficked further abroad to destinations such as Saudi Arabia for domestic work, Taiwan and South Korea for marriage, and Senegal and South Africa for exploitation on fishing boats
  • Protection for male trafficking victims remains inadequate with limited shelters available
  • Sexual exploitation is a major form of exploitation for Cambodian victims trafficked both domestically and internationally
  • Children are trafficked to Viet Nam as well as within Cambodia
  • The sale of virgin women for sexual exploitation continues to be a serious concern
The Trafficking Situation

Cambodia experiences significant internal and cross-border trafficking, and is a country of origin, transit and destination for trafficked persons. Human trafficking patterns and trends in Cambodia vary from small-scale opportunistic endeavours to large-scale organised syndicates with elaborate trafficking networks.

Globalization has brought substantial economic growth to Cambodia, yet there remain limited educational and vocational training opportunities, particularly for youth. This has resulted in a large pool of unskilled workers seeking job opportunities. The lack of viable employment options in the country, coupled with the inadequacy of rural farming options to effectively support families, encourages many Cambodians to seek work opportunities elsewhere. This often results in irregular and uninformed internal and cross-border migration, rendering migratory job seekers increasingly vulnerable to being trafficked. Villagers are sometimes recruited for labour migration by recruitment agency representatives, or those posing as representatives, and then find they have been deceived into exploitative situations.

There are many causal factors that contribute to human trafficking patterns within Cambodia and beyond its borders, and make populations vulnerable to traffickers. This includes: uneven economic development; corruption; discrimination and gender inequality; increasing scarcity of fertile agricultural land; natural disasters; debt pressures; inadequacy of safe and legal avenues for migration; and increased tourism.

Cambodian trafficking victims include men, women and children, who are exploited for a variety of different purposes including numerous forms of forced labour, as well as for commercial sexual services. Victims are exploited through debt bondage and for domestic servitude, forced begging, for forced labour in the fishing, construction, food processing and agricultural industries, and for sexual services in brothels, massage parlours, salons, beer gardens and karaoke bars. Within Cambodia, trafficking victims are predominantly women and girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, as well as for domestic labour.

Given the clandestine nature of the human trafficking industry, there are various challenges that exist in prosecuting perpetrators. Where trafficking patterns occur internationally, limited international cooperation in criminal justice has hampered the prosecution of traffickers, particularly amongst those involved in trafficking onto fishing boats. There has also been little action taken in response to reports of recruitment agencies involved in practices where migrant workers end up in trafficking situations.

Corruption is an obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts and reports have indicated collusion at different levels of government with trafficking patterns. This limits the impact of broader anti-trafficking initiatives by government, NGOs, and international agencies. There have also been trends of children sold into situations of forced labour and sexual exploitation by relatives.

Anti-trafficking mechanisms at a glance
  • Department of Legal Protection, including the Office of Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children (1999) (Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA)
  • Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection (2002) (Ministry of Interior (MoI)
  • Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) Task Force (2005) (MoWA, with UN-ACT as secretariat)
  • Office of Anti-Human Trafficking (2009) and Section on Anti-Human Trafficking (2002) (National Royal Gendarmerie)
  • National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labour Exploitation and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children (2010)
  • Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Reintegration (2011) (Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY)

– The National Committee combines:

  • National Tasks Force (NTF) to implement bilateral and multilateral agreements and MoUs with foreign countries for eliminating trafficking and assisting victims (2007)
  • High Level Working Group (HLWG) to lead the suppression of human trafficking, smuggling, labour exploitation and sexual exploitation of women and children (2007) (MoI)

– National Committee also includes technical working groups on:
Prevention, Protection, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Repatriation, Law Enforcement, Justice, International Cooperation, Child Affairs, Migration, and Monitoring and Evaluation

TIP challenges ahead

Although significant policy-level changes have occurred in Cambodia in recent years, implementation remains limited. Cooperation is weak among parties in the criminal justice response system, including between the police and gendarmerie and/or competent authorities, as well as with prosecutors and judges dealing with human trafficking cases. Many NGOs as well as the UN and international organisations, which are currently operating within the country, face many difficulties in making sustainable progress.

Cambodia lacks an effective complaints mechanism to resolve grievances, and an adequate criminal justice response to perpetrators in destination countries remains a significant challenge.

Twenty shelters operated by different NGOs are in operation to provide assistance to female and child trafficked persons,. However, there exists only one transit centre in Poipet operated by the government, and there are no shelters currently in operation for male victims. A national standard for the quality of shelter services has yet to be formally established, and there is only limited funding available to assist family members of victims.

Research on human trafficking in Cambodia must be further developed to address issues such as emerging trends and increasing migratory flows, with collaboration between local and international partners. Monitoring and evaluation systems for anti-trafficking interventions, impact assessments on prevention efforts, and comprehensive data collection on human trafficking remain limited and require systematic application.

For national, bi- and multilateral laws and agreements on human trafficking involving Cambodia, please see the resource section.