Cambodian human trafficking authorities charged a Chinese national on Thursday with attempting to illegally transport 18 men to work in China in what one government official said was the first such case of trafficking Cambodian men to the country.
Anti-human trafficking police, who are part of the Cambodian National Police force under the Ministry of the Interior, charged Liang Ziasheng with attempting to traffic 18 Cambodian men, said Keo Thea, bureau chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office.
Liang tried taking the Cambodians out of the country on tourist visas, but authorities stopped and questioned them at the Phnom Penh airport, he said.
“We are creating some documents in order to have him tried in court,” Keo Thea said. “We will wait to see the court’s decision.”
“We haven’t seen any documents from the Ministry of Labor,” he said, which would have indicated that the men were being legitimately recruited to work in China. “He [Liang] just wanted to take these men to China by himself.”
But Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior and head of the National Authority Against Human Trafficking, said the trafficking of people in the country had increased slightly by the middle of this year.
So far, police have cracked 54 cases of human trafficking in the country with 132 victims and 70 arrested suspects, she said.
“We took action on 28 cases of human trafficking and 26 cases of sexual trafficking early this year,” she said.
Among the 70 arrested were 35 female suspects, 22 male suspects and 13 foreigners, she added.
The law stipulates that human traffickers be sentenced to five to 10 years in jail, while sentences for trafficking juveniles can be twice as long, she said.
'We need strong cooperation'
“We interviewed a lot of victims of human trafficking, but most of them didn’t acknowledge that they were victims,” Chou Bun Eng said, adding that many indicated that they had asked for help finding a job.
“If the victims dare not complain, then we can’t press charges against the traffickers,” she said. “That’s why we need strong cooperation from a person whom we suspect to be a victim of be trafficking. We also need strong cooperation from people who know about the matter. They can report it to us or they can cooperate with the authorities to bring the traffickers before a court.”
Chun Bun Eng has issued an appeal to all Cambodians to seek jobs inside the country instead of abroad, so they have the comfort of their own language, religion, culture and standard of living instead of risking torture and violence or having to return home without any money.
The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking issued Monday listed Cambodia as a Tier 2 Watch List country for the third consecutive year based on its efforts to reduce trafficking in persons.
Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so, the report said.
It noted that Cambodian men have been increasingly recruited in Thailand to work on fishing boats, then subjected to forced labor and abuse on Thai-owned vessels operating in international waters.
Cambodian women from rural areas have been recruited under false pretenses to go to China where they are forced to marry Chinese men, and some have been subsequently subjected to forced factory labor or forced prostitution, the report said.
Reported by Savborey Ouk for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.