Being back in Cambodia is incredible. I’m in love with this country and have been since the moment I set foot in it last March. My contract with Volunteers in Asia officially started on August 1st. First order of business: a two-week training course in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Subjects covered: TEFL certification, grant writing and reporting, culture, gender, working in international NGOs, and a photography session presented by yours truly. There are 10 volunteers (9 women, 1 man) taking placements across Southeast Asia in everything from human trafficking prevention to sustainable agriculture and development. There are placements in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.
On our first day of training we were separated into groups and asked to go on a scavenger hunt across the city – both as an icebreaker and a way to immerse ourselves in Cambodian culture. We had maps, a list of tasks to accomplish, places to see and five hours to complete it all including putting together a photo/video presentation of our experience. I’ve never really watched the Amazing Race but I’m pretty sure our day was a lot like that. My group was baller, I have to admit. We ticked off as many of the tasks as we could. Sure we got lost and had trouble communicating and ended up on a wild diversion with a tuk tuk driver who drove slower than is humanly possible, but all in all it was really fun. One of the tasks we needed to complete was to “do something good for someone.” One of my team members lead us to Daughters of Cambodia – an NGO that offers viable work for former sex trafficking victims. Our good deed was purchasing items made by Cambodian survivors who are working to rebuild their lives free from sexual exploitation.
I want to share some of the information I gathered about human trafficking in Cambodia. This excerpt is provided by Daughters of Cambodia.
- Total population: 14.4 million
- GNI per capita per year: US $380 (UNIAP)
Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world and its social indicators are amount the worst in Southeast Asia. Following decades that involved mass genocide, civil war, widespread corruption, and extreme poverty, human trafficking and sexual exploitation persist as key threats to fundamental human rights and personal security. According to the UNDP Development Report, 35 per cent of Cambodia’s population lives below the national poverty line of $0.45 USD per day and Cambodia is ranked at number 131 out of 177 countries on the UN Human Development Index.
Cambodia’s turbulent history has significantly impacted human trafficking trends. As a result of the deaths of nearly 3 million people under the Khmer Rouge rule (1975-1979), nearly 50% of the population in contemporary Cambodia is below 20 years old. More than 150,000 people join the labour force annually. (UNIAP)
Human trafficking in Cambodia is far from a homogenous phenomenon. Trafficking networks in Cambodia range from small-scale ad hoc activities to large-scale and well-organized operations. Cambodia now experiences significant internal and cross-border trafficking an is a country of origin, transit and destination.