Washington, DC,
03:07 PM

IJM: TIP Report Disappoints as Cambodia Remains on Tier 2 Watch List

International Justice Mission Urges J/TIP Office to Consider Cambodia’s Progress in Combating Child Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Calls for Continued Collaboration

Global human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM) today urged the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) to consider the remarkable progress that has been made in Cambodia in the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children as the country was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for the third year in a row in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

IJM had recommended that J/TIP upgrade Cambodia to Tier 2 to reflect its substantial progress in prosecuting and deterring the crime of child trafficking.

"This is disappointing,” said Blair Burns, IJM Vice President of Regional Operations, Southeast Asia. “In looking at the progress made in Cambodia, the TIP Office has a clear example in front of it that children can be successfully protected from trafficking.”

The 2015 TIP report referenced two reports published by International Justice Mission, stating:

An NGO report released in 2013 examined the prevalence of children among individuals in the sex trade in commercial sex establishments in three cities and found that children comprised 8.2 percent of this population. The study concludes this represents a significant decline in this form of child sex trafficking since earlier reports by different entities published in 1997 and 2000. The same NGO reported that a March 2015 assessment found the prevalence of children among this population declined to 2.2 percent; these results had not yet been published at the close of the reporting period.

“Cambodia still has a long way to go, particularly with regard to labor trafficking. But the data shows there has been a sea-change with regard to stronger government leadership in counter-trafficking efforts, the justice system’s response to trafficking crimes and increased collaboration between the Cambodian government and civil society,” stated Holly Burkhalter, IJM Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy. “We urge the State Department and the U.S. Embassy to continue to work closely with Cambodia to close remaining gaps in protection and to reflect its progress in subsequent reports.”

In the early 2000s, Cambodia was the international poster child for the commercial sexual exploitation of very young girls, with research reported by the Cambodian government estimating the prevalence of minors being exploited in the commercial sex industry to be as high as 30% in the city of Phnom Penh. Quantitative studies conducted by IJM surveying a variety of entertainment establishments in 2012 and 2015 have today found the percentage of children subjected to commercial sexual exploitation to be only 2.2 percent, with the percentage of very young minors –aged 15 and under—making up only 0.1% of the commercial sex industry in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, the three largest commercial sex markets in the country.

IJM has been collaborating with the Cambodian justice system since 2003 to rescue child victims of sex trafficking and apprehend and prosecute suspected perpetrators. The organization has trained 500 members of the Cambodian police anti-trafficking unit and collaborated in the rescue of over 500 victims and prosecution of over 200 criminals.

Over the past dozen years, the State Department’s TIP Report has been an important source of political pressure on Cambodia to address what was once one of the worst situations of young child sexual exploitation in the world. However, IJM warns that the report’s influence will be diminished should it fail to recognize genuine progress. Cambodia is one of the most progressive nations in the ASEAN in regards to counter-trafficking efforts, government and civil society collaboration, and victim friendly treatment.

Cambodia was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 as J/TIP recognized Cambodia’s government having a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan.

International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

To learn more about IJM’s model, watch this TED Talk from founder and CEO Gary Haugen.