The Asia Foundation supports the Cambodian Committee of Women (CAMBOW), a coalition of 33 NGOs working to end violence against women in Cambodia, to advocate for the passage of the domestic violence law that will be debated in the national assembly, and to train lawyers to represent women victims of violence.
The Foundation also supports the Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children (COSECAM) to launch a nationwide, market-sensitive vocational training network among organizations providing shelter, counseling, and vocational training to victims of trafficking.
The Digital Divide Data organization holds information technology vocational training project for survivors of trafficking and rape.
The NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child (NGOCRC), is a coalition of national and international non-government organizations (NGOs) working together to advocate for the rights of children and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Cambodia (CRC). The NGOCRC was established in 1994 and there are currently 34 NGO members. In 2002, there are approximately 200 NGOs in Cambodia working specifically with children.
The Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC) has created three sub-committees: The sub-committee for countering trafficking and sexual exploitation of children; the sub-committee on Child Labor and other forms of Exploitation; and, the sub-committee for legislating child-related laws.
The Cambodian government has strengthened its response to dealing with this issue by raising the profile of abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children, and forming stronger networks with organizations working to combat this problem. An extradition and repatriation agreement has been signed between Cambodia and Thailand to repatriate trafficked Cambodian children and about 200 children are returned weekly to Cambodia to be rehabilitated and reintegrated. The number of victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking appears to have risen over the last 12 months, but this could be due to increased reporting and intervention. There only have been 6-7 offenders convicted for these crimes. This number is very low compared to the reported prevalence of this illegal activity. The Cambodian government is mid-way through the Five Year Plan of Action Against Sexual Exploitation of Children, however the progress of implementation is very slow. In a well-known red light district of Phnom Penh, Svay Pak, there are children as young as 7 years old forced to prostitute themselves.
There is a system for return and reintegration with girls returning from Thailand as established by IOM in collaboration with Thai and Cambodian governments. Cambodia does not yet have Memorandums of Understanding with other neighboring countries such as Vietnam. Women and children are trafficked from Cambodia for begging and selling wares (e.g. Lottery tickets on the streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam).
There have been serious efforts on the part of the government to combat trafficking in women and children. The most prominent of the country’s governmental ministries working to combat trafficking in women and children is the Ministry of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs (MWVA), which began a partnership with IOM in 2000 with financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland in order to implement a counter-trafficking project entitled, "Prevention of All Forms of Trafficking in Women and Children."
This project combines information dissemination, education activities with local officials, advocating for policy changes and media projects that have sought to put the issue of trafficking on the public and political agenda. The central objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of MWVA to act as a lead agency within the government to protect and strengthen the rights of women and children and combat all forms of gender based violence of which trafficking is one of the most flagrant.
Project activities have involved mass information campaign that made use of live comedy and theatre to bring interactive awareness-raising materials to approximately 70,000 vulnerable people in remote areas over a six month period. These activities have been followed up with more targeted, village-based activities that involve the establishment of peer networks amongst young Cambodian women, village-based volunteers and the potential development of community networks that empower communities to protect themselves and their most vulnerable members.
Within the areas of advocacy and media the project has campaigned to strengthen both legal instruments and their implementation in an effort to better protect the rights of women and children who are at risk of, or become victims of trafficking. In particular the MWVA has lobbied for the ratification of the UN Conventional against organized crime and its Trafficking protocol. It has also petitioned to have two additional articles included in the country’s new draft law on trafficking in order to ensure a more human treatment of trafficking victims.
This work has been supported by a national medial campaign that made use of television, radio and print media. Recent impact assessments have shown that key messages, i.e. to break the silence that surrounds trafficking and report on it, have been retained.
In the area of educational activities for local authorities, the project has delivered capacity-building training to some 2000 local officials on the socio-economic aspects of trafficking and irregular migration and the legal aspects of both, in order to better enable the involved authorities to implement related laws.
Cambodia is included in a regional ILO-IPEC anti-trafficking project with funding from the Department for International Development-UK.
The Government of Cambodia, with support from ILO-IPEC, conducts training on child labor for labor inspectors and awareness-raising programs through radio broadcasts. In 2001, USDOL funded an ILO-IPEC project in Cambodia to eliminate hazardous child labor in salt production, commercial rubber plantations, and the fish and shrimp processing sector.
MOSALVY is responsible for enforcing compliance with child labor laws. Since 2000, questions on child labor have been incorporated into routine labor inspections. In 2002, the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department was created to address trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children, and currently has police units in seven provinces. Inadequate resources, insufficient staff, and lack of training hinder enforcement of child labor laws, and counter-trafficking efforts are hampered by official corruption.
The Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the Japanese Institute for Legal Development, drafted a new anti-trafficking law that has been submitted to the Government for review.
The MOSALVY, with International Organization for Migration (IOM) technical expertise, regularly repatriated trafficked victims from Thailand to Cambodia and from Cambodia to Vietnam. In addition, the MOSALVY worked with UNICEF and local NGOs to manage community-based networks aimed at early intervention of trafficking. The Ministry of Women's and Veterans' Affairs continued a public education campaign against trafficking, focusing on border provinces. The Ministry of Tourism submitted a draft tourism law that would give the Ministry authority to shut down hotels collaborating in child prostitution. In June, the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thailand to pursue joint investigations of transnational traffickers.
During 2003, the Asia Foundation assisted the Government in repatriating nine Cambodian forced laborers from a Thai fishing vessel that sank in Indonesian waters. In 2002, the Government worked with the IOM to repatriate 73 Cambodian forced laborers from Thai fishing vessels who were arrested by the Indonesian navy in 2001. In 2002 and 2003, the Cambodian government created specialized anti-trafficking and juvenile protection units in several provinces, which raided a number of brothels. From January through November, the specialized unit in Phnom Penh initiated 415 investigations of activities including child sex, trafficking, rape, debauchery, and pornography, which resulted in 25 raids on suspected human traffickers, and 33 suspected traffickers were turned over to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The raids of the specialized unit in Phnom Penh also resulted in the rescue of 54 victims of human trafficking, 9 of whom were under the age of 18. Other police units also conducted raids of brothels and rescued numerous prostitutes, including underage workers. The Government provided rescued victims with protection while working with NGOs to either reunite the victims with their families or to place them in a shelter operated by an NGO or other private charity. Trafficking victims, especially those exploited sexually, faced societal discrimination, particularly in their home villages and within their own families, as a result of having been trafficked.
On May 31, 2003, the Government of Cambodia signed a MOU with the Government of Thailand on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women. The point of the MOU is so that Thailand and Cambodia can pursue joint investigations of transnational traffickers. The MOU also addresses the reintegration of victims of trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Labor signed a letter of grant agreement with the Royal Government of Cambodia to collaborate on efforts to strengthen educational opportunities in areas with a high incidence of child labor. The educational project (of up to USD 3 million) is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, and is supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSALVY). The project aims to increase school enrollment, attendance and retention of working children and children at risk, particularly those employed in or at risk of falling into the worst forms of child labor, such as child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The project is being implemented by a consortium of NGOs headed by World Education.
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