I wish to refer to the articles on the issue of the US State Department's global anti-trafficking watchdog list (June 6-7). I feel that it is important to reassure and inform Cambodians and the development organizations interested in helping our people of the developments that have taken place since the Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children and Women was launched in April 2000. It was started with support from UNICEF, the International Organization of Migration, World Vision and the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US.
I will tell them of the progress in the war against the trafficking of women and children. Before 2000, there was no sensitization of the police, no specialized police units or training on how to investigate these cases. Since 2000, however, after five years of strong political commitment in the government, hundreds of police in the specialized police units have been trained in the legal and technical issues concerning law enforcement and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Documents have been produced and distributed to police. Seminars and workshops have been organized with governors, chiefs of departments and other senior officials at the national and sub-national level in order to get their support in investigations of these crimes. A 24-hour national telephone hotline was started in 2000, and it receives more than 800 calls every year on new cases. Three provincial hotlines have been set up in Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Banteay Meanchey province, where a high number of crimes are reported. The achievements of the project are an encouraging sign of progress. From the 30 to 40 sex offenders arrested in 1999, the police arrested and sent to court more than 400 suspects in 2004, and more than 700 victims have been rescued and referred to social services.
In order to strengthen forensic evidence when a sex crime is committed, a new medical certificate has been prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Some 100 medical practitioners have received training on the medical examination of a victim of sexual abuse. A sign of commitment, the Ministry of Interior has established an Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Department at the national level, and in the provinces a specialized unit has been established. Close international cooperation is needed to track sex offenders and traffickers, and several regional initiatives have been launched to exchange information and experience. But anti-human trafficking is a long war to fight, and we continue to face challenges. This is not a problem in Cambodia alone: The war has become a global one. Before this phenomenon, sometimes Cambodia was seen as weak. But our five-year plan has changed this, and we should be encouraged to maintain our policy strategy for the safety of our women and children. Cambodia is no longer a safe destination for traffickers and pedophiles.
I am a Cambodian, and I always want the best for my country. We at AFESIP work against the causes and consequences of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Within this mandate we have chosen an extremely difficult and challenging task. Not only do we provide shelter and care for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, but we also intervene when we come to know of those women and girls who want to leave their places of exploitation or are underage. This is done in the most difficult circumstances and cannot be easily judged from the outside. In this regard, the role of the government is paramount and absolutely non-expendable.
The raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel was conducted and undertaken by the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit of the police. AFESIP collaborated with the police in order to give care to those that were being confined and prostituted and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The raid was not led by AFESIP, and the women and girls in our shelter were treated with care. We suffered deeply from the attack on them and our shelter, and since then we have struggled to rebuild our morale and motivation.
The raid highlighted the collaboration and partnership between the government and civil society and needs to be built on further. The Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit has worked well in the last few years and needs more encouragement. I, like many others, do not want Cambodia to suffer from sanctions. Cambodia needs as much help as possible to rid her of this demeaning problem.
We all have lessons to learn from this incident. I would like to make a call for us to move on from all of this quarreling. We must all work together to help the government achieve its goals, avoid sanctions and strengthen our fight against trafficking.
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