Human trafficking in Cambodia

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Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. The traffickers are reportedly organized crime syndicates, parents, relatives, friends, intimate partners, and neighbors.[1] Despite human trafficking being a crime in Cambodia,[2] the country has a significant child sex tourism problem;[2][3][4][5][6] some children are sold by their parents, while others are lured by what they think are legitimate job offers like waitressing, but then are forced into prostitution. Children are often held captive, beaten, and starved to force them into prostitution.

The Cambodian government was placed in the Tier 2 Watch List in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so.[1]

U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed the country in "Tier 2" in 2017.[7]


A UNICEF survey concluded that 35% of Cambodia's 15,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16. Almost all of Cambodian brothels are Vietnamese-owned, with most of its prostitutes being of Vietnamese descent and captured sex slaves being of other ethnic groups. Men are trafficked for forced labor in the agriculture, fishing, and construction industries. Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in factories or as domestic servants. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in organized begging rings, soliciting, and street vending.[1]

Common destinations for trafficking victims are Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.[8]


Pimps are reported to imprison young children who are virgins. These children would not be placed to work until they had been presented to a series of bidders, such as high-ranking military officers, politicians, businessmen, and foreign tourists. Young girls working in brothels are in effect, sex slaves; they receive no money, only food, and armed guards stop them from running away.[9] Children are often held captive, beaten, and starved to force them into prostitution.[2]


In 1995, a 15-year-old child that was trafficked into prostitution in a brothel in the Svay Por district of Battambang was beaten to death.[10]

Child sex trafficking[edit]

Children as young as 3 are being sold as slaves for sex.[2] By some estimates, hundreds of thousands of children are bought, sold, or kidnapped around the world each year and then forced to have sex with men.[2] ECPAT Cambodia reports that as many as one third of the trafficking victims in prostitution are children.[11]

Foreign child molesters[edit]

The MOI reported the arrest of 31 foreign child molesters in Cambodia in 2009.[12]


A law was passed in January 1997 to curb trafficking in women, with fines of up to $12,000 and prison sentences of up to 20 years for pimps and brothel owners.

In 2008, the Government introduced the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, which criminalizes all forms of trafficking. However, the country remained a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and labor. Children were trafficked domestically for sexual exploitation.[12]

Cambodia is party to several international covenants prohibiting the trafficking of persons and the exploitation of women and children.[8]

Cambodia has continued to assist U.S. law enforcement authorities in the transfer to U.S. custody of Americans who have sexually exploited children in Cambodia.[1]

Anti-Human Trafficking Day[edit]

December 12 is observed as National Anti-Human Trafficking Day in Cambodia.[8]

Non-governmental organizations[edit]

On the ground in Cambodia, a number of non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations are working to combat human trafficking. These include AFESIP, the Somaly Mam Foundation, Hagar International, ECPAT,[13] and Agape International Missions.[14] There are also other development partners that work together to fight against human trafficking.[15][16][17]


  1. ^ a b c d "Cambodia". 2005-05-06. Archived from the original on 2006-04-20. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Children for sale". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  3. ^ Gittings, John (2000-11-16). "The tragic tale of the Cambodian child prostitutes". Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  4. ^ Harding, Andrew (2005-06-11). "Trapping Cambodia's sex tourists". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  5. ^ Hendry, Sharon (2007-12-09). "Far East is perv's Paradise". The Sun. London. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  6. ^ "Cambodia gets tough on child sex trade". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  7. ^ "Trafficking in Persons Report 2017: Tier Placements". Archived from the original on 2017-06-28. Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  8. ^ a b c "AFESIP Siem Reap Center held International Women's Day". AFESIP. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
  9. ^ "Asian Child Rights". Asian Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
  10. ^ "Cambodia". Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Archived from the original on 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
  11. ^ CCPCR[permanent dead link] (password-protected)
  12. ^ a b "US Department of State: Cambodia". Archived from the original on 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
  13. ^ "Somaly Mam Foundation". Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  14. ^ Steve Milne (May 9, 2011). "Area Couple Fighting Sex Slavery In Cambodia". Capital Public Radio. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  15. ^ "12 December 2009 is observed as National Anti-Human Trafficking Day in Cambodia !". 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
  16. ^ "Hagar Cambodia". Hagar International. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  17. ^ "ECPAT Cambodia". Phnom Penh, Cambodia: ECPAT Cambodia. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2012.

External links[edit]