Human trafficking cases surge in early 2021 amid economic distress

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Chou Bun Eng, permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT). Post Staff

A senior Ministry of Interior official said 85 human trafficking cases were recorded in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 60 cases compared to the same period last year.

Chou Bun Eng, permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said on May 11 that last year saw only 25 cases of transnational human trafficking.

“This year we had cracked down on 85 cases in the first three months, mostly involving illegal removal which led to human trafficking,” she said.

The cause of the increases, Bun Eng said, was the limited education levels of people and brokers who were taking advantage of the economic distress caused by Covid-19.

“While we are busy fighting Covid-19, brokers took advantage to traffic people as our compatriots have limited knowledge of these matters,” she said, adding that relevant institutions had continued their efforts to minimise trafficking cases.

She said most of the trafficking is linked to Thailand, but some of it is to China through Vietnam.

“We had informed our people who returned to the country in late 2019 that migrating right now is not like it was in the past. If they migrate now, they may not be able to get a job in their destination country and even risk contracting the virus,” Bun Heng said.

“The countries they travel to are also fighting Covid-19 by banning travel and closing the borders,” she said.

Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights programme coordinator Khun Tharo said people had been severely affected by Covid-19 which has caused job losses throughout the country and now they are more prone to being trafficked by brokers.

“The brokers are so skillful about trafficking. They take advantage of the Covid-19 situation to traffic people. This form of trafficking is through a promise to find them jobs, which encourages people to migrate,” he said, urging the authorities to strengthen prevention.

“For human trafficking cases, if a heavy sentence is given to the perpetrator, it can deter other perpetrators from committing these crimes,” he said.

Interior minister Sar Kheng in late April instructed all municipal and provincial police to investigate and crack down on human trafficking networks that traffic Cambodians out of the country and traffic foreigners into the Kingdom.