Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cambodia Tackles Human Trafficking

From the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal Asia:

Cambodia Tackles Human Trafficking
By Marielle Sander-Lindstrom
June 12, 2008

Cambodia is regularly referred to as the human-trafficking hub of Southeast Asia, but it's hard to know by which measure. Anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are trafficked there annually. Without reliable data on these crimes, it's hard to combat this clandestine trade or to prioritize needs and services for its victims.

Which is why it's heartening to see Phnom Penh take action. Last week, the government launched its first-ever national effort to collect standardized data on human trafficking. Headed by the National Task Force, a collaborative effort between 14 government ministries and agencies and more than 200 nongovernmental organizations, the goal is to establish common definitions and data collection methodology.

This isn't as easy as it might sound. For example, does cross-border trafficking refer to national borders or movement across provinces? Should the recorded age of the victim be based on his or her age when first trafficked, or the age when the person was rescued? If a woman agrees to be sold by her parents into the sex industry, is she trafficked?

These questions matter. Policy makers can't construct effective laws without knowing the nature of the crimes committed. Law enforcement can't combat trafficking effectively without good data. NGOs can't provide the correct services to victims of trafficking without data on gender, age, education level, forms of exploitation and the location of rescue.

Once definitions are established, the National Task Force can start collecting and analyzing data to ensure that policies and programs respond to real needs. This is already starting to happen. The National Task Force, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and its partners, have agreed to collect 15 key data sets to determine the profile of the victim, forms of assistance and reintegration services provided. This data will help the Cambodian government and countertrafficking actors monitor and measure the impact of antitrafficking efforts.

This collaborative effort is the latest indication that Cambodia is getting serious about combating trafficking. Earlier this year, parliament passed the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation. This law is a watershed because it criminalizes a wide range of trafficking offenses, from sex slavery to bonded labor. Phnom Pehn has also started to crack down harder on offenders, in an effort to protect Cambodian nationals from exploitation.

These are just the first steps in a long war ahead. But it's worth it. Modern-day slavery is alive and well. It will only be eradicated when government and citizens make a concerted effort to fight it.

Ms. Sander-Lindstrom heads the Asia Foundation's Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program in Cambodia.


  1. Thanks. Good post. I've added your link to my blog.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Anonymous4:49 AM

    criminalized prostitution is not gonna help these victims, instead it drive it underground into unsafe area. The western governments should encourage Cambodia to pass tough anti human traffic law, anti slavery law instead of trying to imposing imperial christian twisted value against sex in general on poor countries.