The government increased law enforcement efforts, particularly in obtaining convictions. The 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation explicitly addresses trafficking offenses in 12 of its 30 articles, prohibits all forms of trafficking, and prescribes seven to 15 years in prison—and up to 20 years for aggravating circumstances—for both sex and labor trafficking; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, particularly among provincial courts; however, the information authorities provided, augmented by media and NGO reports, indicated the government prosecuted 53 individuals under its anti-trafficking law or comparable provisions in the penal code in 2016, compared to 69 prosecutions in 2015. The National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) reported courts convicted at least 100 traffickers—including some whose trials began in the previous reporting period—up from 43 in 2015 and 29 in 2014. Unlike in prior years, the government did not provide data on sentencing, nor did it disaggregate information on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions based on the type of trafficking offense. Authorities noted that labor officials’ failure to sufficiently inspect private recruitment agencies, and the ability of these agencies to sub-license their names to other independent brokers, likely perpetuated labor exploitation during the reporting period.
Local experts reported cases involving foreign suspects were more likely to result in trafficking convictions than cases involving Cambodian suspects, for whom charges were often reduced to less serious offenses. NGOs reported courts continued to conclude sex trafficking cases with monetary settlements in lieu of prison sentences, and victims whose families received out-of-court settlements from traffickers often changed their testimony, further complicating prosecutions. Judicial police lacked the resources to monitor defendants released pending trial, allowing many to flee prior to their trial dates.
The government continued to design and deliver donor-funded training on the implementation of anti-trafficking laws to police, prosecutors, judges, and other government officials. During the reporting period, the NCCT reported more than 7,680 commune and provincial officials, law enforcement officers, judicial staff, and NGO workers received training or attended workshops on anti-trafficking laws, investigative techniques, and evidence collection. Local organizations and some officials noted an urgent need for more sophisticated evidence collection techniques, including undercover investigation, to decrease reliance on witness testimony and adapt to the increasingly clandestine nature of sex trafficking. However, the government did not grant undercover investigative authority to anti-trafficking police units, and NGOs continued to report this significantly constrained law enforcement officers’ ability to pursue sex traffickers, particularly for cases involving establishments discreetly engaged in prostitution, such as beer gardens, massage parlors, salons, karaoke bars, and retail spaces.
Endemic corruption at all levels of the government severely limited the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding traffickers accountable. The Cambodian national police maintained a mechanism for NGO workers to report incidents of anti-trafficking police corruption, but did not field any complaints during the reporting period. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government employees complicit in trafficking, nor did it take any punitive measures against Phnom Penh’s former anti-trafficking police chief, whose 2011 trafficking conviction was overturned in an unannounced, closed-door Supreme Court hearing in 2013.