Counter-Trafficking Stakeholder Meeting

By Song Sophoat

June 25th, 2013: The United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Traffi cking (UNIAP) hosted a Counter-Trafficking Stakeholder Meeting at Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. More than 100 participants joined the meeting, including H.E. Ith Rady (Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Justice and Vice Chair of COMMIT), other public officials from various ministries, and various representatives from NGOs, private sector, and academia.

The objective of the meeting was to reveal challenges and lessons learned in working with the courts on human trafficking cases and identify gaps and lessons learned by analyzing human trafficking cases from the courts.

In an introductory presentation, a representative from UNIAP highlighted the objectives of its organisation. It aims to provide services by supporting government institutionalization of effective multi-sectoral approaches to combat trafficking. It also provides services to UN partners to maximize the UN’s contribution to the overall anti-trafficking response. In addition, it provides services to the broader counter-trafficking sector, including donors, to facilitate optimal allocation and targeting of anti-trafficking resources; and plays a catalytic role in the anti-trafficking response by identifying and supporting special projects to address new and emerging issues and opportunities.

Thereafter, another representative from UNIAP reviewed the key challenges and lessons learned in working with the courts on the human trafficking. Those challenges included, but are not limited to:

  • Some victims could not identify their traffickers, so they could not tell the police and/or lawyers.
  • Some victims could not read and write because they did not study Khmer.
  • Some victims were not clear about their traffi ckers’ addresses so it was hard for police or local authorities to arrest the latter.
  • Some victims seemed not to believe in the courtsystem in Cambodia.

His Excellency Ith Rady expanded further on the gaps, lessons learned from an analysis of various human trafficking cases from the courts. Of the seven cases which he considered, two occurred at the local level and the other five were cross-border. He highlighted some of the problems facing the police, judges and prosecutors in combating human trafficking: these included lack of training and/or cooperation, as well as issues relating to cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand. Based on this survey, he recommended that there is the need for the development and implementation of specific anti trafficking laws; the better training of police officers, prosecutors and judges to effectively and cooperatively respond to trafficking, including in the collection of evidence; training in trauma and legal matters must be provided to social workers in order to provide victims with assistance for criminal justice; there is also the need to promote coordination among officials at municipal and provincial levels.

In addition, the overall conclusion of the workshop was that Cambodia must also focus on prevention, by promoting awareness through campaigns to reach vulnerable rural communities and migrant labourers. This is in addition to more effective prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators in the courts, whilst providing protection to their victims through a wide range of services including shelter, medical and psychosocial support, legal assistance, and support for safe return and reintegration into the community.