Cambodian authorities have begun a clamp down on the residency status of foreigners living in the country after being downgraded by the United States on human trafficking.
Chhay Kim Khoeun, Deputy National Police Commissioner and spokesman, said the aim of the operation is to find those who have entered Cambodia illegally.
“For the law to continue today, we must control all foreigners. If they do not violate Cambodian law, they will not be monitored or enforced against,” he said.
“If you ask me how many have been arrested, I do not know but now we have launched a campaign because we have a lot of problems, so we have to find out the truth.”
At a closing ceremony at the Police Academy on July 26, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng announced the Ministry will conduct large-scale operations to inspect the accommodation of all foreigners in Cambodia. This includes construction sites, hotels and companies.
Diplomatic officials are the only exempt foreigners.
“This examination is not for any purpose, it is for the purpose of finding out whether those who come to Cambodia are entering legally or not. Working in Cambodia, there is labor law and [we need to] find out who is the target of human trafficking,” he said.
Cambodia was downgraded to Tier 3 by the United States in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, saying that endemic corruption continued to impede overall law enforcement operations, holding traffickers accountable, and victim service provision.
The report said authorities did not investigate or hold criminally accountable any officials involved in the large majority of credible reports of complicity, in particular with unscrupulous business owners who subjected thousands of men, women, and children throughout the country to human trafficking in entertainment establishments, brick kilns, and online scam operations.
Licadho human rights activist, Am Sam Ath, said the situation of human trafficking in Cambodia has not improved and that is why the country was downgraded to Tier 3.
“We also regret that Cambodia has slipped to Tier 3 on human trafficking. We see that even with Cambodian authorities' commitment to prevent and crack down on human trafficking, this problem persists, especially between foreigners and foreigners,” Sam Ath told Kiripost.
He added that in order to prevent these crimes, Cambodia must enforce existing laws and increase cooperation between countries as human trafficking is systematic.
“We must take action against any officials involved in human trafficking, no matter how big positions they have. We must take action, especially strengthening law enforcement at borders, and local authorities must prevent human trafficking,” he said.
He added this also requires participation from citizens and the government to work together so the public can report crimes to authorities.