Undocumented Cambodian labour migrants working in Thailand still remain at high risk of trafficking due to their immigration status. This is one of the many results of the “Trafficking in Persons report” (TIP) 2019 announced. The new well-known report was published by the United States Department, on 20th of June.

As also reported over the past years, undocumented migrants aren’t the only victims of human trafficking in Cambodia. Indeed, even if migrants using irregular migration channels are at an increased risk of trafficking, those using licensed recruiting agents also become victims of forced labour or sex trafficking.

Traffickers continue to recruit significant numbers of Cambodian adults and children: many of them are forced to work on fishing vessels, in agriculture, in construction, in factories and in domestic servitude, often through debt-based coercion, or they are prey of sex trafficking.

Rural farming families, especially women and girls from rural areas, as well as children from impoverished families and children left behind by families migrating abroad for work, are at higher risk of many forms of forced labour.

All of Cambodia’s 25 provinces – it’s written in the Country narrative section – are sources for human trafficking and the situation does not seem to improve, since in 2018 Cambodia was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch list, from Tier 2 of the previous 3 years. The tier placements taken in consideration by the report are 3, where the third one is the worst, excluding the “special case” placement.

The Government of Cambodia is making “significant efforts” to prosecute and convict traffickers, increasing law enforcement training and taking steps to raise awareness on and incentives safe migration to primary destination countries. Regarding the multidisciplinary efforts to fight human trafficking, the report quotes the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), the interagency committee funded to coordinate anti-trafficking activities and implement its national action plan.

Subsidiary provincial anti-trafficking committees coordinate efforts at the local level to mirror the activities of the national action plan with modest central government funds and assistance from NGOs. Six out of nine of these committees created their own provincial-level action plans. However – according to the United States Department – the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.

The recommendations to the authorities concern, among many other things, the prosecutions and provision of services to victims, with a focus also to the migrant workers. It’s recommended to establish and allocate resources to implement systematic procedures at diplomatic missions to assist Cambodian victims abroad, including in countries without Cambodian diplomatic representation. Strengthening efforts to inspect private labor recruitment agencies and their sub-licensed brokers for fraudulent recruitment and other trafficking indicators. Increasing public awareness on proper travel document application procedures to facilitate safe, legal migration.

Monitoring, collecting, and reporting data on anti-trafficking prosecution and victim protection efforts also remain a weak point in the country. It’s not specified how many of the 8,489 Cambodian returnees assisted by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC), were trafficking victims.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) reported assisting in the repatriation of 222 Cambodians identified by foreign governments and NGOs in 2018, including 61 from Malaysia, 20 from Thailand, 89 from China, 21 from Somalia, 29 from Vietnam, and two from Saudi Arabia (243 total in 2017). Of these, 109 were victims of forced labor.


At the same time, Thailand – that remains the main destination country for Cambodian labour migrants – continue to be in the tier 2 of the Report.

The Thai government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, also in several key areas, but is making significant efforts to do so.

Regarding migrant workers for example, while the number of migrant workers entering Thailand through bilateral MOUs (Memorandum Of Understanding) continued to increase – according the U.S. State Department’s annual human trafficking report – high costs, difficulties in obtaining identity documents in home countries, and administrative barriers to change employers continued to impede greater usage of this mechanism.

Labour traffickers – it is noticed in the U.S. State Department annual assessment of how countries are performing – exploit migrant workers in fishing boats, commercial fishing and related industries, the poultry industry, manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work, and street begging. Traffickers take advantage of some migrants in labor trafficking, often through debt-based coercion and fraudulent promises of well-paid employment.

Finally, the report mentions several activities undertaken by the government, such as bilateral meetings with neighboring countries to facilitate information sharing and evidence gathering in trafficking cases, but much remains to be done to address modern slavery.