Sar Kheng: Snare Masterminds Behind Trafficking

To solve a case successfully is to catch the mastermind behind it, Kheng said at the 16th National Anti-human Trafficking Day on Dec. 12. Photo: Sar Kheng Facebook

PHNOM PENH – Interior Minister Sar Kheng has called for a crackdown on human and drug trafficking masterminds as well as money laundering so that Cambodia can be removed from an international list of countries with weak anti-money laundering controls.

To solve a case successfully is to catch the mastermind behind it, Kheng said at the 16th National Anti-human Trafficking Day on Dec. 12.

He said Cambodia has until the first quarter of 2023 to get its name out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — a French-based intergovernment organisation combating money laundering.

“Money laundering is an important issue for Cambodia nowadays,” Kheng said.

“FATF will receive the outcome reports from the National Committee on Counter-Trafficking (NCCT) and will fact-check the report to evaluate the accuracy for removing Cambodia from the grey list.”

According to Sar Kheng, the number of complaints and cases of human trafficking has declined since the authority started an operation to combat humans trafficking in August.

Kheng said there were about 10 trafficking complaints daily before the campaign but now authorities got only one to three. More than 600 complaints had been received.

From August to November, the National Committee for Counter Trafficking found 1,122 people, of whom 121 were women, claiming to be victims and asking for help, said Chou Bun Eng, the ministry’s Secretary of State and permanent vice-chair of NCCT. 

However, only 153 people, including 18 women and of six nationalities, were identified as the victims of trafficking, illegal confinement or forced labor. The rest claimed to have only wanted to change their job or there had been family.

Between the start of the operation in August and October, there were 22 suspects of three nationalities involved in trafficking 22 people, and four suspects of one nationality involved in sex trafficking. Four of the case locations were temporarily closed for investigations, and lawsuits have been sent to the court, while another five locations have been closed.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights body LICADHO, recognized the efforts of the NCCT and authorities in cracking down on trafficking and saving the victims this year.

However, he said the civil society group was still concerned as the modernization of technology had also led to an increase in cyber scams. Sam Ath suggested the anti-human trafficking team get training on using technology in their missions.

The US added Cambodia to the bottom tier of its human trafficking index report 2022, and both international media and national civil society groups have expressed concerns regarding human trafficking, especially cyber scams,” he said.

Authorites have to cooperate with regional and global countries to prevent and identify suspects coming to the country, eliminate corruption in human trafficking, and strengthen the rule of law, meaning that the masterminds must be arrested regardless of their status or position.

Sar Kheng said there had been improvements in the human trafficking situation but he still encouraged authorities to keep cooperating to prevent and combat the problem.

The minister encouraged national and international stakeholders in all sectors to seek more measures and cooperate with each other to “prevent, combat, convict, save, and protect” to ensure the country is free of human trafficking.

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