Human trafficking clampdowns up in first half of 2021, official says

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National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) vice-chair Chou Bun Eng urges Cambodian migrant workers not to cross the border illegally amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Interior has reiterated its call for people to refrain from crossing the border to find work in Thailand amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The call came as the authorities reported a noticeable increase in clampdowns on human trafficking, with nearly 200 cases recorded in the first six months of this year compared just over 60 cases in the same period last year.

Chou Bun Eng – the ministry’s secretary of state and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking – told The Post on July 21 that the authorities had cracked down on 198 cases this year, as opposed to 63 in the first half of 2020.

Bun Eng said that while many migrant workers have returned from Thailand, some have also gone back illegally through brokers, making them vulnerable to cheating.

“Some opportunists smuggled people across the border, believing that the government was too busy fighting Covid-19 to take action against them. In fact, we continue to do our job,” she said, noting that crackdowns on people smuggling to Thailand made up the most cases at 121.

Bun Eng said that in the first six months of this year, the municipal and provincial courts had tried more than 400 cases of human trafficking, with 200 cases resulting in verdicts.

She urged people not to cross the border illegally into Thailand in these circumstances. She explained that they might not only fail to reach their destination but also end up getting cheated and contracting the coronavirus.

“In the past, there were a lot of brokers dropping people off at the border . . . They just left workers behind, sometimes in pagodas or in the forest, until Thai police caught them. Thai police haven’t been able to arrest Thai brokers, only our workers,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said while he acknowledged that the authorities had increased their clampdowns, human trafficking remained a concern as it might continue to occur.

“So, in Cambodia, we need to strengthen the protection and suppression of human trafficking. In our country, there needs to be more outreach and education for people to understand human trafficking and work together to prevent the crime,” he told The Post on July 21.

“Cambodia needs to increase cooperation with neighbouring countries to prevent cross-border human trafficking, and also with countries in the ASEAN region, among others,” he said.