Appendix E

The Case of Cambodia

 

I. Introduction
Cambodia is a country which has only very recently emerged from a long period of armed conflict and civil unrest which has caused the population to suffer tremendously. Presently in Cambodia the majority of people, especially women and children, are vulnerable to exploitation due to extremely difficult lives caused by poverty-related problems like low income, malnutrition, poor health, illiteracy, and poor skills. There are several issues specific to vulnerable groups, including the breakdown of families, poor parenting, lack of material and moral support from the community, and weakness of law enforcement, which lead to the exploitation and abuse, abduction, sale, and trafficking in women and children. Extreme poverty and lack of understanding drive many women and children to migrate to urban areas to find employment but they end up in prostitution or working in sweatshops against their will. Because of its exceptional condition of being a country slowly recovering from the destruction of a long war, Cambodia is now becoming a country with an image of being a place for inexpensive and unrestricted prostitution, including the ‘youngest prostitutes ‘ as well as a source and transit point for the trafficking of women and children to other parts of Asia.
II. Historical Perspective of the Problem
The history of Cambodia, most of all, has been one of many wars one after another, but trafficking of human beings is a new problem to Cambodia. Prior to 1970, the trafficking in children and their exploitation was not practiced as today. Between 1970 and 1975, the nation was controlled by a military government that caused much suffering to the people in the rural areas, which increased the flow of migrants to the urban areas. During this time trafficking and prostitution were practiced. During the Khmer Rouge time (1975-1979) people were living in unwalled prisons. Migration, trafficking, and prostitution were completely prohibited as a result of movement restrictions, oppressive social controls, and the collective economy. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and the re-establishment of relationships with neighboring countries, the trafficking and exploitation of non-Cambodian children began and increased. Most (85-95 per cent ) were Vietnamese girls according to the observation of the research team. The arrival of the UNTAC peace keeping forces in 1992 was also the arrival of a great increase in prostitution and the trafficking of women and children. By the end of 1992, the estimated number of sex workers in Phnom Penh alone was more than 20,000. When UNTAC's mission ended in 1993 the number of sex workers dramatically decreased to between 4,000 to 10,000 girls working in about 400 establishments.
A most important alarming trend to note is that the age of sex workers is becoming younger and younger and the number of trafficked women and children is increasing. The latest research undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights and Reception of Complaints which gathered information on commercial sexual exploitation in 22 provinces and municipalities revealed that there are 14,725 women working as prostitutes, of which 2,291 (15.5 per cent ) are children under the age of 18 years old. The number was likely to be underestimated.
III. Nature and Extent of the Problem
The report defined internal and cross-border trafficking as the forcing of people, by various means, to move from one place to another for commercial sexual exploitation. It explained that the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation purpose from one area to another is undertaken by different means. In Cambodia many girls fall prey to the practice when rural families-lured by the modest sum paid to them by brokers-allow their children to be taken to the city or other countries to work in jobs described to be honest and well paid. In actual fact, many or nearly all of them end up in the sex business, or the more ‘fortunate ‘ ones may end up in domestic work where conditions of work sometimes resemble slavery. The consequences for children forced to work as prostitutes are far-reaching and can be fatal. Girls risk early pregnancy, maternal mortality and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. They are also subject to serious psychological, mental, and developmental problems due to the conditions they are forced to live and work under.
The report stated that most trafficked children and women come from very poor families headed by single women (In Cambodia 50 per cent of women are heading a single family with many children). According to an IOM study, there are some factors, most often, which put certain women or girls at risk for being lured into prostitution including: an older sister, relative, or friend is already involved in prostitution; the parents of the girl are separated or are divorced and have remarried; one or both of the parents are dead and the girl is living with a relative or friend; one or both of the parents are drug addicts, alcoholics, or gamblers; the family is dependent on unpredictable casual work for their income; the family is in debt or for other reasons lives in extreme poverty; the girl is of suitable age for the sex industry; the women herself is divorced or separated from her husband; the woman or girl is psychologically weak.
Of the women and children who are sold, the ones who did the selling are: 44 per cent by their neighbor/villagers; 23 per cent by their relatives; 17 per cent by their friends; 3 per cent by their boyfriend; 6 per cent by their employer; and 6 per cent by unknown persons. Others are deceived after being offered jobs as domestic servants, hotel employees, restaurant workers, etc. Many come to the trade after being raped, and some enter the trade to help their family financially or to run away from physical abuse at home.
The report also provided some very alarming statistics with credible sources about the numbers and distributions of prostitutes in Cambodia. The total number of prostitutes in Cambodia in 1996 was 80,000-100,000, with 17,000 being in Phnom Penh. In 1997 it was estimated that 35 per cent of all prostitutes were held against their will. In Phnom Penh in 1995, 31 per cent of prostitutes were of age 17 and under while the total number or prostitutes under 18 years of age in all of Cambodia was 20,000. About 65-70 per cent of the prostitutes were Cambodian while 30-35 per cent were from Vietnam, China, or other countries. The report also provided the youngest ages of prostitutes found in various years as follows: 1992 study-18 years; 1993 study-15 years; 1995 study-12 years; and in 1997 raids the youngest were 11 years of age. The average number of clients served per day was 7-15 and the HIV rate of Cambodian sex workers was 41 percent.
A most alarming statistic which was not specifically discussed, but offered in two different places in the report was concerning how quickly a young virgin prostitute looses her value or becomes ‘depleted. ‘ The report stated that the first client pays from $300-$700 for the first week with a virgin prostitute. For the next few weeks clients will pay about $100-$200 per week, $20-$50 per night, or $10 for 20 minutes. After a month or so clients pay only $1 per sex act. The report also stated that the brothel will pay a broker from $50-$300 for delivering a virgin who becomes a prostitute. These reported figures explicitly indicate how a victim is dehumanized to become a valuable commodity which brings huge profits but is quickly ‘used up,’ requiring replacement. It indicates why the trafficking in human beings is so enticing and profitable, but it also shows the terrible tragedy it causes to women and children.
IV. Trafficking for Employment
Internal and cross-border trafficking for employment or better income opportunity is similar to the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. The trafficking is undertaken by several means based on the availability of agents or recruiters. Women and young children are always informed by illegal recruiters or any agent about employment opportunities or better employment wages in the main cities of Cambodia. The recruiters have their own network in the villages and they likely recognize that the family is in crisis and need the assistance. The recruiter approaches and promises to support or give a loan to the family and in return one of the family members will be brought elsewhere. But, the employment opportunities in the main cities of Cambodia are limited and the wages are low, so facilitators and recruiters have created and managed a whole network for Cambodians (women and children) to cross the border and find work in other countries, particularly Thailand. The employment and better income opportunities include low skill laborers, manual work in fishing, construction, plantation, and domestic work. The demand for Cambodian workers in Thailand is high because they work hard for low wages with little complaints and few problems of labor control as they are afraid of being arrested by authorities of illegal immigration.
Trafficking Crossing Points There are various connections where the recruitment for trafficking and cross border migration can take place. Transportation is by air, over land, or by river. The trafficking of Cambodian women and children to Thailand is undertaken through many crossing points of Banteay Mean Chey, Koh Kong, and Siem Reap Provinces. The trafficking is organized by fishermen, traders, soldiers, and corrupted authorities. The crossing points from Vietnam to Cambodia are numerous and the transportation can be by land, air, or water. The transportation by land involves traveling by motorcycle, cars, or foot past the border checkpoints. By river, the transportation is usually by cargo boat where the women and children being trafficked usually kept at the bottom of the boat and hidden by cargo. The transportation by air is rarely done and involves traveling by a proper Vietnamese passport. This is generally used for pretty virgins who can attract a high price; mostly those abducted or bought from parents in northern Vietnam to be taken to sell in brothels in towns and provincial capitals in Cambodia, primarily Phnom Penh.
V. National Policy and Related Legislation
Before reviewing national policy and legislation aimed at combating the problems discussed in this report, it is important to remember that the legal system in Cambodia was reported to be presently weak. When trying to fathom how a society can tolerate the buying and selling of its most vulnerable members, it is easy to point to economic and social factors that deny girls the education and job opportunities that could help them avoid prostitution. But, the report stated that there is another, uglier reason for the flourishing sex trade. Virtually anyone involved in helping exploited women children would say the same thing: The authorities cannot help stop the trade because they are involved. Too many people are making too much money for it to stop. And people who work to help those trapped in the sex trade all say they have too much to lose to go on the record with precise accusations. In 1998 the Cambodia Daily news stated, ‘Many civil servants are involved in trafficking .... Some police-not all, but some-are involved with the traffickers. Police are often protectors and enforcers for the brothels. And there is increasing evidence that they are involved in buying and selling kidnapped girls, or at least willing to turn a blind eye.’
In spite of this problem, Cambodia is taking many measures to stop the kidnapping and trafficking in women and children into prostitution. In 1992 Cambodia signed the UN Convention on the rights of the child reflecting the increased concern of the government in child welfare issues. Over the last few years efforts to address the problem of child exploitation and trafficking of women and children have been stepped up by the government with the help of ILO-IPEC, UNICEF, IOM, WVI-C, CWDA, Vigilance, AFESIP, CCPR, SCF(UK), Redd Barna, Krousar Thmey, ASPECA, LICADHO, and ECPAT-Cambodia.
Article 31 of the Constitution of Cambodia explicitly stated that ‘the government shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations charter, the universal declaration of human rights, and the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women's and children's rights,’ It also further stated that ‘the commerce in human beings, exploitation by prostitution and obscenity...’ shall be prohibited. In January 1996 the National Assembly adopted a new and first law on Suppression of the Kidnapping/Sales of Human Persons. One provision of this law is that it imposes a 15 to 20 year prison sentence on those who lure and kidnap persons under the age of 15 for trafficking/sale into prostitution. In January 1997, the National Assembly adopted a new labor code that set the minimum age of employment at 15 (those under 18 need parental approval), however those between 12 and 15 years of age can be engaged in light work provided that it is not hazardous to their health and psychological development and the work will not affect their education. Many programs in Cambodia by governmental and non-governmental organizations which promote the welfare of women and children, include the prevention of their kidnapping and trafficking. One goal of these organizations is to raise the awareness of the problem through the dissemination of information about child rights and other principles related to the protection of children's rights to local authorities, police, and the public.
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