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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                       

Kingdom of Cambodia

The garment industry currently employs more than 320,000 people and contributes more than 85% of Cambodia's exports.

The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia's demographic imbalance. More than 50% of the population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Cambodia

Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and girls are trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia for exploitative labor as domestic workers and forced prostitution. Some Cambodian men migrate willingly to Thailand and Malaysia for work and are subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor in the fishing, construction, and agricultural industries.

Parents sometimes sell their children into involuntary servitude to serve as beggars, into brothels for commercial sexual exploitation, or into domestic servitude. Within Cambodia, children are trafficked for forced begging, waste scavenging, salt production, brick making, and quarrying.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Cambodia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

SISHA (NGO, 24hr operation)
017 382 877
Country code: 855-



Child trafficking takes new forms in Southeast Asia

Rafael D. Frankel, Special to The Christian Science Monitor, Battambang Cambodia, December 12, 2001

[accessed 26 January 2011]

When he was 12, his parents in rural Cambodia sold him to a trafficker who forced him to beg on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, and the resort town Pattaya. He lived with seven other children in one room. All were Cambodian. Some were as young as six.

"The trafficker told my parents he would send them $55 a month," the boy says. "But I would earn $18 or $25 every day or night I begged."

Over the next three years, the boy escaped twice and made his way home. But the trafficker found him, repurchased him, and took him back to Thailand. The second time, his parents sold his younger brother as well.

Slavery Continues in the Form of Forced Prostitution

Ed Vitagliano, News Editor for American Family Association AFA Journal, Agape Press, April 15, 2004

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

Psychiatrist Wendy Freed authored a report for Physicians for Human Rights. Her report on the psychological aspects of women trapped in sexual slavery in Cambodia presented this frightening pattern faced by thousands of girls and women:

"The young women have been in captivity for a period of weeks to months or years. Initially there is shock and disbelief. Many young women describe not being able to believe that they had been sold .... Once they realize that in fact they are sold, they fight the brothel owner's demand that they accept customers. Refusal leads to beatings, being locked in a room, and going without food. This persists until the young woman gives up and realizes that indeed they are trapped and have no options .... At some point in this process, the young woman becomes submissive in order to avoid further beatings and torment; her 'spirit is broken.' She surrenders, becomes resigned and accommodates to the circumstances of captivity."


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cambodia

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 16 May 2021]


Third-party debt remained an important issue driving forced labor. According to a report from the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, by the end of 2019 more than 2.6 million persons in the country had loans from microfinance lenders totaling some $10 billion, contributing to an increase in child labor and bonded labor. The Cambodia Microfinance Association and Association of Banks in Cambodia disputed the size of the problem.

Forced overtime remained a problem in factories making products for export. Unions and workers reported some factory managers had fired workers who refused to work overtime.

Children were also at risk of forced labor (see section 7.c.).


Many children worked with their parents on rubber, cassava, cashew, and banana plantations, according to a union active in the agriculture sector. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of workers on those plantations were children.

Children were vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, including in agriculture, brick making, and commercial sex (see also section 6, Children). Poor access to basic education and the absence of compulsory education contributed to children’s vulnerability to exploitation. Children from impoverished families were at risk because some affluent households reportedly used humanitarian pretenses to hire children as domestic workers whom they abused and exploited. Children were also forced to beg.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 25 April 2020]


Equality of opportunity is severely limited in Cambodia, where a small elite control most of the economy. Labor conditions can be harsh, sometimes sparking protests.

Cambodia is a country of origin, destination point, and transit point for sex and labor trafficking; while the US State Department reported progress in Cambodia’s efforts to fight trafficking in a 2019 report, it also criticized the government for prosecuting individuals working to document this activity.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 17 April 2019]

[accessed 25

April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 242]

Children are trafficked domestically, from rural to urban areas, and internationally, to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, for commercial sexual exploitation. (9; 1) In Cambodian brick factories, some children engage in forced labor, including in hazardous conditions, to offset family debt to employers. (2; 31; 8; 12).

Joining on Somaly Mam’s Brothel Bust

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, November 12, 2011

[accessed 13 November 2011]

[accessed 16 August 2020]

The other reaction that people sometimes have is resignation, the sense that forced prostitution is as inevitable as it is evil. On the contrary, I’m struck every time I visit Cambodia how much improvement there is. In Poipet, most of the brothels are now shut down, and one trafficker there whom I’ve known for years is now reduced to selling lottery tickets — because kidnapping girls and selling their virginity is just too dangerous. There was one police-run brothel in Poipet that I thought would never close because of its connections, but it is now just a plain vanilla hotel. Sure, there’s still prostitution in Poipet and no doubt some children are still held in cages and sold to buyers — but much, much less often than before. And this change came about because of international pressure from the United States and other governments, from news organizations, and from NGO’s.

Human Trafficking On the Rise in Cambodia

Voice of America ®, Pnom Phen, 23 March 2009

[accessed 19 July 2013]

[accessed 25 April 2020]

TRAFFICKING VICTIMS ARE ENSLAVED, TORTURED - Trafficking victims in Cambodia typically endure years of torture and abuse.   Vann Sina was lured from her village with an invitation to a Christmas party when she was just 13 years old.  When she arrived in Phnom Penh she was locked in an underground cellar.   She says she was beaten a lot and had to serve many clients.  She says that if she refused she was tortured with electric shocks or forced to eat hot chilies. She says that if she did not receive 15 or more clients every day she was starved and beaten. - htcp

Human trafficking: The faces and sorrow at the heart of a UN report

UN News Centre, 13 February 2009

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Sokha was 14 when she was trafficked across the border from Cambodia into Thailand to sell fruit – and was then forced into prostitution when her “boss” found the fruit trade not sufficiently lucrative.

Sokha was eventually saved by an organization in Thailand that rescues girls from prostitution. Now she hopes to set up her own sewing business and employ other girls trafficked as she was.

If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, January 3, 2009

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Pross was 13 and hadn’t even had her first period when a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh. The brothel owner, a woman as is typical, beat Pross and tortured her with electric current until finally the girl acquiesced.   She was kept locked deep inside the brothel, her hands tied behind her back at all times except when with customers.   Brothel owners can charge large sums for sex with a virgin, and like many girls, Pross was painfully stitched up so she could be resold as a virgin. In all, the brothel owner sold her virginity four times.   Pross paid savagely each time she let a potential customer slip away after looking her over.   “I was beaten every day, sometimes two or three times a day,” she said, adding that she was sometimes also subjected to electric shocks twice in the same day. - htcp

Sex workers want legislation changed

Australian Associated Press AAP, June 24, 2008

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 25 April 2020]

Sex workers have delivered a letter to the Cambodian embassy in Canberra calling for changes to anti-trafficking and sex work laws.

The new laws had simply moved sex work underground, in an unsafe, unregulated environment, alliance president Elena Jeffreys told AAP.  "Hundreds of sex workers have also been arrested, detained, and have faced violence and sexual assault in detention.  "Sex workers who are HIV positive have been unable to access their medication, which is placing their lives at risk."  The Cambodian government overlooked the distinction between sex work and trafficking, Ms Jeffreys said.

Cambodia Tackles Human Trafficking

Marielle Sander-Lindstrom, Wall Street Journal Asia, June 12, 2008

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Cambodia is regularly referred to as the human-trafficking hub of Southeast Asia, but it's hard to know by which measure. Anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are trafficked there annually. Without reliable data on these crimes, it's hard to combat this clandestine trade or to prioritize needs and services for its victims.

Not all bliss for take-away Cambodian brides

Brian McCartan, Asia Times, Apr 8, 2008

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

The mechanics of the trade are still murky. What is known is that women from mostly rural areas are brought by brokers into the capital city of Phnom Penh and put on display for prospective foreign grooms. The brokers are usually either informal operators or connected to one of several matchmaking businesses, which until now operated freely in Cambodia.

Because the business apparently lacks a coercive element - women are allowed to turn down a marriage offer - it is not technically considered human trafficking. The business side of the trade, however, is certainly exploitative. Potential grooms pay as much as US$20,000 to brokers for their services, while the bride's family is given $1,000 as well as money to cover the costs of the wedding. The broker and agency divvy up the rest of the spoils.

Putting the red light on human trafficking

Thomasina Larkin, The Japan Times, Sept. 29, 2007

[accessed 22 August 2014]

"Neary grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months later, they went to visit a fishing village. Her husband rented a room in what Neary thought was a guest house. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone.

"The owner of the house told her she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel. For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Neary was infected with HIV and contracted AIDS.  "The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23."

Human trafficking helps spread HIV/AIDS in Asia: UN

Ranga Sirilal, Reuters, Colombo, Aug 22, 2007

[accessed 26 January 2011]

"Trafficking ... contributes to the spread of HIV by significantly increasing the vulnerability of trafficked persons to infection," said Caitlin Wiesen-Antin, HIV/AIDS regional coordinator, Asia and Pacific, for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  "Both human trafficking and HIV greatly threaten human development and security."

Major human trafficking routes run between Nepal and India and between Thailand and neighbors like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Many of the victims are young teenage girls who end up in prostitution.  "The link between human trafficking and HIV/AIDS has only been identified fairly recently," Wiesen-Antin told the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

Eat To Live: Feeding Pol Pot's children

Julia Watson, Posted at, Phnom Penh, 21 May 2007

[accessed 1 September 2011 January 2011]

On the manicured lawn between the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap River, a young couple sitting under a banyan tree offered me their 14-month-old son in exchange for my wrist watch.

Gustav Auer of Friends restaurant is not surprised. He and others involved in non-governmental organizations locally are waiting to see whether the adoption efforts of Madonna and Angelina Jolie -- who visited Friends when she was in Cambodia recently -- have a positive or an adverse effect.  There is no such thing, says Auer, as a legal adoption policy in Cambodia. It's all about the money. You pay enough, you get the papers. "In my nine years here, I know of only one legal adoption where there was no financial compensation."

U.S. presses Cambodia police chief on trafficking

Sue Pleming, Reuters, Washington DC, Apr 24, 2007

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Lundy, who was in Washington chiefly for counter-terrorism talks with the FBI, was refused a U.S. visa in 2005 because of "what was believed to be credible evidence of complicity in human trafficking," former senior State Department official John Miller told Reuters last week.  Asked whether Lundy was asked to address accusations against him during his talks with senior officials, a State Department spokesman declined to provide further details about the meeting.  Lundy previously has rejected charges of human trafficking, but Miller said the police chief is suspected of playing a role in freeing eight traffickers hours after they were seized in a raid in Cambodia.

Cambodia launches 1st national task force against human trafficking

Xinhua News Agency, April 06, 2007

[accessed 26 January 2011]

According to official reports, over 180,000 migration laborers toiled irregularly in Thailand, while hundreds or even thousands of Cambodians are exploited to work as sex slaves in Malaysia, Japan, China's Taiwan and Hong Kong, Qatar, Somali, and Saudi Arabia.

More co-operation needed in war on human trafficking

Viet Nam News VNS, Ho Chi Minh HCM City, 04-07-2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Reviewing the human trafficking trend in the region, Thailand’s Susu Thatun, programme manager of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region reported that nearly one-third of the global trafficking trade of about 200,000-225,000 women and children are trafficked annually from Southeast Asia.

While in the past women and children have been reported as trafficked victims, Thatun said that boys and men have also been identified as victims as well into the sex trade, heavy labour, begging, marriage, and the fishing industry.

In Viet Nam, Thu reported that most of the 4,530 women and children were trafficked to China and Cambodia from 1998 for the purpose of prostitution, arranged marriages or labour exploitation.  Because of the cross-border nature of human trafficking, Thu proposed that, under the AIPO framework, ASEAN parliaments should establish a project on legal co-operation to fight against human trafficking to be more successful in fighting the complex form of crime.

Microsoft Uses Grants To Help Alleviate Human Trafficking

Josephine Roque, All Headline News AHN, Manila Philippines, June 15, 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Microsoft Corp. has released grants worth more than $1 million to six Asian countries to deal with human trafficking by providing computer skills.

Called the "Unlimited Potential," the grants were distributed throughout: Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Review of a Decade of Research On Trafficking in Persons, Cambodia

Annuska DERKS, Roger HENKE, LY Vanna, Center for Advanced Study, The Asia Foundation, May 2006

[accessed 19 July 2013]

The Review of a Decade of Research on Trafficking in Persons, Cambodia, provides a comprehensive assessment of over 70 research studies, highlighting what is and what is not known about human trafficking in Cambodia. The Review analyzes past studies, identifies gaps in information, offers suggestions for future research, and calls upon the counter-trafficking community to work together to create a solid base of knowledge that will inform and strengthen future efforts to counter trafficking in Cambodia.

Human Trafficking Conference Calls for Action against Corruption, Weak Law Enforcement

Ron Corben, Voice of America VOA News, Bangkok, May 22, 2006

[accessed 28 August 2012]

[accessed 25 April 2020]

Ormond spoke of female victims she met in Cambodia.  "I met with girls and women from many shelters. Girls so young it was hard to comprehend their fate. Girls as young as five, seven and 12, who had been victims of rape and sold into forced prostitution," she said.

Vietnam, Cambodia to Crack Down On Cross-border Human Trafficking

Vietnam News Agency VNA, May 24, 2006

[accessed 20 April 2012]

Under the campaign, part of specific activities under an agreement signed between the two governments in October 2005 regarding cooperation in eliminating human trafficking and helping victims, Vietnam will draw up a list of suspects and rings involved in trafficking women and children from Vietnam to Cambodia.

The Cambodian side will define key areas, suspects and rings engaged in trafficking Vietnamese women and children.

Mekong region govts to co-op against human trafficking

Xinhua News Agency, Phnom Penh, May 7, 2006

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 21 January 2018]

Since the signing of the historic COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding in Yangon, Myanmar in October 2004, by Ministers of the six countries, the Governments have been active in laying the foundation for a network of cooperation to stop traffickers and prosecute them, protect victims of trafficking and assist them return safely home, and launch efforts to prevent others from sharing the same fate.

Khmer girls' trafficking ordeal

Kylie Morris, BBC News, Thai-Cambodian border, 2 June, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

LOOKING FOR CASH - She and her cousin were 16 years old when they decided, against their family's wishes, to travel to Bangkok. The New Year was approaching, and they wanted some extra cash for the festive season.  A neighbour had told them they could make good money washing dishes in a restaurant in the Thai capital.

"At first I refused to have sex with men. Then I was beaten so badly I had to hide my face for a month, until it healed. Then I was told again I would have to sleep with the customers. I knew if I refused I would be beaten again. I had no choice but to agree."

Cambodian police raid hotel, rescue three girls from sex trade

Mainichi Daily News (Japan), September 07, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Police arrested two women - a broker and a pimp during the raid.  One of the victims was 16 years old and was allegedly sold for US$1,000 by her mother, who needed the money to survive.  The alleged broker had the girl's family registration card and intended to show it to pimp and buyer to prove the girl is truly 16 years old.

Rebuilding Cambodia: one woman at a time

Karoline Kemp, theTravelrag, September 6, 2005

[accessed 22 August 2014]

Thyda looks like any other young girl – only she’s lived through trauma most of us could never imagine. At the age of 12 she was told that she needed to make money in order to buy medicine for her sick grandfather. Because she was considered to be very beautiful, her mother sold her to a friend for $300. This woman then sold her to a high-ranking Cambodian official for $800. She stayed with him for three hours on that first night. Thyda was moved all over the country, being resold over and over again.

Cambodian police rescue 88 sex workers

Australian Broadcasting Corporation ABC Radio Australia, 26/06/2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Police in Cambodia have rescued 88 sex workers and detained the four men who allegedly coerced them to work.  Police have raided a massage parlor at a hotel in Phnom Penh, rescuing 56 Cambodians, 28 Vietnamese and four Chinese sex workers.

Comments about Cambodia’s Tier 3 status in Trafficking in Persons Report

H. E. Prum Sokha, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior, The Cambodia Daily (Letters to the Editor), Phnom Penh, 9 June 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

H. E. PRUM SOKHA, SECRETARY OF STATE, MINISTRY OF INTERIOR, PHNOM PENH - Before 2000, there was no sensitization of the police, no specialized police units or training on how to investigate these cases. Since 2000, however, after five years of strong political commitment in the government, hundreds of police in the specialized police units have been trained in the legal and technical issues concerning law enforcement and the sexual exploitation of women and children.

The $50 Baby

Annette Langer (with additional material from Reuters), Spiegel Online International, 01/28/2005,1518,339105,00.html

[accessed 26 January 2011]

The parents' horrifying decision to sell their one-month old is one that many couples in Cambodia reach. Most regret doing so as soon as they realize the consequences but in a landscape of abject poverty like this Southeast Asian country, many feel that selling their own flesh and blood is the only way to make ends meet.

Cambodian Women 'Not Abducted'

Guy De Launey, BBC News, Phnom Penh, 18 February, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

The Cambodian government has issued a report into the alleged kidnapping of dozens of sex workers from a safe house in the capital Phnom Penh in December.  It says the women left the facility of their own accord, while the anti-human trafficking group that ran the safe house, Afesip, has criticized the report's findings as a "cover up".

Police Rescue Sex Slaves In Cambodia

South African Press Association SAPA, Agence France-Presse AFP, Phnom Penh, April 5 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Cambodian police rescued 18 Vietnamese women, aged between 18 and 23, allegedly forced to be sex workers in a massage parlor.  "Every evening they were forced to have sex with guests, and each woman had to pay half of the money she charged a guest to the owners," Sun Bunthong said.  "They were not allowed to go out the house.  One 18-year-old woman who had violated the order was stabbed with a knife twice in her back.

Asia Sex Traffic Case UN Hails Stunning Success

Press Release: United Nations, 10 March 2005

[accessed 18 January 2016]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

The prosecution rested on the testimony of eight Cambodian women, who left their home village believing they would be offered work as noodle and clothes sellers in Bangkok. Instead, they were held in Samut Prakan before being sold into a Malaysian brothel.

Decisive sentence handed down in Cambodian sex trafficking cases [PDF]

PR Newswire, Washington DC, January 19, 2005

[partially accessed 1 September 2011 - access restricted]

A brothel keeper and a pimp were found guilty of exploiting three teenage girls who were regularly drugged and beaten at the brothel and forced to have sex. The girls were sold to the brothel keeper who forced them to work off the amount for which they were purchased.  Each time they were drugged, the cost of the drugs would also be added to their debt.

Myth 1 - After the Brothel

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Poipet Cambodia, January 26, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

The traffickers who were supposed to get her and four female friends jobs as dishwashers smuggled them instead to Kuala Lumpur where three of them were locked up in a karaoke lounge that operated as a brothel and ordered to have sex with customers.  The girls were forced to work in the brothel 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and they were never paid or allowed outside. Nor were they allowed to insist that customers use condoms.  They were warned that if they tried to escape they could be murdered.

Cambodia, Where Sex Traffickers Are King

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Phnom Penh, January 15, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Police report describes the Chai Hour II as a case "of confinement of human beings for commercial sex" and adds that it is also "a place for trafficking/sale of virgin girls."

Review: "Terrify No More"  by Gary A. Haugen -- W Publishing Group, Nonfiction, ISBN: 0849918383

Lisa Ann Cockrel

[accessed 26 January 2011]

This non-fiction narrative revolves around IJM's efforts to dismantle the notorious sex trade in the Cambodian village of Svay Pak, a place where children as young as five years old are sold for sex to Western pedophiles and where grandmothers sell the virginity of their granddaughters to the highest bidder.

Sex Trafficking Growing In S.E.Asia

Fayen Wong, Reuters, Singapore, April 26, 2005

[accessed 1 September 2011]

[accessed 21 January 2018]

Girls from the villages of Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines are lured into cities or neighboring countries with promises of lucrative jobs as waitresses and domestic helpers, only to end up in massage parlors and karaoke bars.  Others are flown as far as Australia, Japan, South Africa and the United States to be kept as slaves in brothels -- beaten, drugged, starved or raped in the first days of their reclusion to intimidate and prepare them for clients, the experts say.

The Modern Scourge of Sex Slavery

Dr. Martin Brass, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Hong Kong, 2004,13190,SOF_0904_Slavery1,00.html

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[photo caption] Cambodian policeman escorts 11-year-old Vietnamese girl from brothel in Toul Kork red-light district of Phnom Penh: Six girls from 11-13 years of age were rescued from brothel that offered only young children. Trafficked from Vietnam, children were rescued during sting operation involving Cambodian Interpol and local police, led by End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT)

The Protection Project - Cambodia [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[Last accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - It has been estimated that at least 200,000 to 225,000 women and children are trafficked from Southeast Asia annually. Most of the trafficking destinations are within the region (60 percent are major cities of the region; 40 percent are outside the region).  Most trafficking into, within, and from Cambodia occurs for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Within Cambodia, children are trafficked for work in garment factories in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, for begging in Svay Rieng along the border with Vietnam, or for construction work, domestic work, or work as porters.

Vietnamese girls are trafficked to Cambodia, where they are supposedly prized for their fairer skin.  In fact, aid workers say that most women working in Cambodia’s sex industry are Vietnamese.  Trafficking gangs lure Vietnamese women with promises of jobs as waitresses or hostesses. For example, a trafficking gang broken up in January 2003 in southern Vietnam was accused of trafficking 18 Vietnamese women to Cambodia for forced prostitution between June 2002 and January 2003. The women had been promised legitimate jobs.

[3] Leaving the Brothel Behind

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Battambang Cambodia, January 19, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

A year ago, a pimp handed me a quivering teenage girl. Her name was Srey Neth, and she was one of the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who are enslaved by the sex trafficking industry worldwide.  Then I did something dreadfully unjournalistic: I bought her.

I purchased Srey Neth for $150 and another teenager, Srey Mom, for $203, receiving receipts from the brothel owners. As readers may remember, I then freed the girls and took them back to their villages.  Now I've come back to find out how they coped with freedom.

Testimony of Bopha

US Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, “Trafficking in Persons Report”, June 14, 2004 – Introduction: Victim Profiles

[accessed 26 January 2011]


[accessed 25 April 2020]

Bopha lived in a rural village and married at 17. Her husband immediately took her to a hotel in another village and left her. Bopha discovered the hotel was a brothel and tried to escape, but she was forcibly detained and told she must pay off the price the hotel owner had paid for her.

Bopha's debt kept increasing due to charges for her food, clothing, and other necessities. Bopha could not leave. Ravaged by HIV/AIDS, she was thrown out on the street and finally found her way to an NGO shelter in Phnom Penh. She has been there for two years receiving treatment; it is not known how much longer Bopha will live.

[2] Bargaining For Freedom

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Poipet Cambodia, January 21, 2004

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

Finally, Srey Mom said goodbye to ''Mother,'' the owner who had enslaved her, cheated her and perhaps even helped infect her with the AIDS virus -- yet who had also been kind to her when she was homesick, and who had never forced her to have sex when she was ill. It was a farewell of infinite complexity, yet real tenderness.

So now I have purchased the freedom of two human beings so I can return them to their villages. But will emancipation help them? Will their families and villages accept them? Or will they, like some other girls rescued from sexual servitude, find freedom so unsettling that they slink back to slavery in the brothels? We'll see.

[1] Girls For Sale

Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Poipet Cambodia, January 17, 2004

[accessed 25 April 2020]

Srey Neth claimed to be 18 but looked several years younger. She insisted at first (through my Khmer interpreter) that she was free and not controlled by the guesthouse. But soon she told her real story: a female cousin had arranged her sale and taken her to the guesthouse. Now she was sharing a room with three other prostitutes, and they were all pimped to guests.

''I can walk around in Poipet, but only with a close relative of the owner,'' she said. ''They keep me under close watch.They do not let me go out alone. They're afraid I would run away.''  Why not try to escape at night?  ''They would get me back, and something bad would happen. Maybe a beating. I heard that when a group of girls tried to escape, they locked them in the rooms and beat them up.''

U.S. raps Cambodia over sex trade

Elise Labott, State Department Producer, Cable News Network CNN, December 14, 2004

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Under Un's direction, the Cambodian police rescued 84 women and young girls from a brothel last week. But the next day, gunmen kidnapped them and seven others from the shelter where they were taken after their rescue.

Hitting Slavery Where It Hurts

Quentin Hardy, Forbes, 01.12.04

[accessed 18 January 2016]

"Nothing compares to the deadness in the eyes of a kid in a brothel," Haugen, 40, says. "In Rwanda, the dead were already gone. In the brothels of Cambodia, they are the living dead."

They mapped a systematic, and highly profitable, trade in innocents. Kids from remote rural areas are promised work or treats in distant cities by slave dealers, who sell them to brothels for up to $1,000. Sex with these kids costs $30 compared with $5 for an adult prostitute in Cambodia.  "Our investigators came into Svay Pak, and within ten minutes pimps came up saying 'Do you want small-small? I can get small-small,'" says Sharon Cohn, the head of IJM's antitrafficking unit. "It was unbelievable--kids as young as 5."

Children for Sale

NBC News, 1/9/2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

Dateline goes undercover with a human rights group to expose sex trafficking in Cambodia. Children, some as young as 5 years old, are being sold as slaves for sex.  - htcp

Hagar, an NGO, Helps Human Trafficking Victims in Cambodia

Victoria Silverman, U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, 17 June 2004

[accessed 22 August 2014]

Tami believes the dramatic rise in abductions and coerced sex slavery in Cambodia can be traced to regional efforts to curb prostitution. Trafficking basically grew out of the pressure in neighboring Thailand to change Bangkok's image as a "sex capital," he said. "From Bangkok, organized crime had to find another fertile place to operate."

"Cambodia was just coming out of 30 years of war, with weak legislation and rampant corruption, so organized crime thrived," Tami continued. "Poverty and lack of education, particularly among the countryside, also contributed to the phenomenon." Cambodia is among the poorest and least developed countries of the world, according to the World Bank.

Cambodia: Young Trafficking Victims Treated as Criminals

Edgar, TakingITGlobal, Aug 16, 2002

[accessed 26 January 2011]

"These arrests violate every principle regarding the appropriate treatment of apparent trafficking victims," said Colm. "They should be provided with medical and legal services, counseling, secure shelter, and given the opportunity to cooperate in the investigation into the traffickers. It is imperative that these girls get the services they need and deserve."

The investigating judge on the case told reporters that initial findings revealed that the girls were trafficking victims, but that when the court learned the girls had entered Cambodia without legal documentation, they were no longer considered victims, but violators of Cambodian law for illegal entry into the country.

Measuring the Number of Trafficked Women and Children in Cambodia: A Direct Observation Field Study [PDF]

Thomas M. Steinfatt, Professor of Communication, University of Miami, Fulbright Scholar, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Sponsored by USAID, 6 October 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

[page 25]  SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS - Across Cambodia, 5,317 sex workers were observed in direct and indirect sex work establishments. Of these, 2,328 or 43.8% were in Phnom Penh, and 2,989 in the remainder of the country. An additional 12,939 unobserved workers were estimated to exist throughout the country, for a total estimated number of sex workers in Cambodia of 18,256, with an observed percentage of 65.5% Khmer and 32.8% Vietnamese. A total of 1,074 persons, 20.2% of the 5,317 observed sex workers, were classified as trafficked, 876 by their indentured status and 198 as underaged. Almost all observed trafficked workers were Vietnamese or Khmer, with less than 1% of other ethnicities, and the total number of trafficked women and children throughout the country was estimated at 2,000. The majority of those trafficked, 80.4%, were observed to be Vietnamese since 61.9% of Vietnamese sex workers were or had been indentured. Trafficked persons were concentrated in population centers such as cities and towns, with the majority in cities. No indentured workers were found in villages, as defined in this study, or in rural areas. Those judged to be under 16 were found only in cities, particularly Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Koh Kong. All trafficked women and children observed in the present study were in brothels, some marked as “massage.”

World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children -- Feature 3: Cambodia

World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, August 27-31, 1996

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

ARIS STORY - My family is poor and so my mother pledged me for $500 to help feed my eight brothers and sisters. I am the most beautiful, Ari says with pride. Most of the money she makes goes directly into the pocket of a brothel owner, leaving little to pay off the debt she now shoulders.

How Ari came into prostitution is a familiar story to the local organisations researching child sexual exploitation. According to NGOs, the majority of child sex workers are abducted by middlemen (or women), sold or pledged by parents, relatives, neighbours or boyfriends, or deceived with the promise of jobs or marriages. Often children are hired out or sold by their families to agents who may or may not reveal the true nature of the work.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2 June 2000

[accessed 26 January 2011]

[63] While welcoming the enactment of special legislation to combat sexual exploitation and the adoption of a five-year Plan of Action against Sexual Exploitation of Children (2000-2004) and other related measures in this area, the Committee expresses its concern at the widespread phenomena of child prostitution and the sale and trafficking of children; the inadequate enforcement of the new legislation on these issues; and the shortage of trained people and institutions to provide rehabilitation to the victims.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

[accessed 26 January 2011]


2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 19 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


Third-party debt remained an important issue driving forced labor. According to the findings of a BWTUC survey conducted during the year, 48 percent of 1,010 construction workers in Phnom Penh had debts; 75 percent of the debtors owed money to microfinance or banks, and 25 percent owed money to family members.


Children from impoverished families were at risk because affluent households used humanitarian pretenses to hire children as domestic workers, only to abuse and exploit them (see section 7.c.). Children were also subjected to forced begging. In September the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training’s director of child labor acknowledged the ministry lacked resources to inspect for child labor in domestic service.

Child labor was most widespread in agriculture, including sugarcane and rubber production, logging, shrimp processing, and fishing, as well as in brick manufacture, salt production, domestic service, car repair, textiles, slaughterhouses, and the production of alcoholic beverages. Children also worked as beggars, street vendors, shoe polishers, and scavengers.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Children were trafficked to Thailand and Vietnam for begging, soliciting, street vending, and flower selling. These children frequently were placed into debt bondage to beg or sell, or they formed part of organized begging rings even when there was no debt or economic hardship involved. One study by MOSAVY found that 76 percent of trafficked persons returned from Thailand came from families who owned land, 93 percent owned their own house and had no debt on the land or house, and 47 percent of trafficked persons stated that their mother was the facilitator. There was an increase in the trafficking of women to Malaysia to work in the sex industry.

Trafficking victims, especially those trafficked for sexual exploitation, faced the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In some cases victims were detained and physically and mentally abused by traffickers, brothel owners, and clients.

Traffickers used a variety of methods to acquire victims. In many cases victims were lured by promises of legitimate employment. In other cases acquaintances, friends, and family members sold the victims or received payment for helping deceive them. Young children, the majority of them girls, were often "pledged" as collateral for loans by desperately poor parents; the children were responsible for repaying the loan and the accumulating interest. Local traffickers covered specific small geographic areas and acted as middlemen for larger trafficking networks. Organized crime groups, employment agencies, and marriage brokers were believed to have some degree of involvement

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Cambodia is reported to be a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficking in children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and various forms of work, including forced labor and begging.  Cambodian children are trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or bonded labor.  The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a serious problem in Cambodia.  Children are also used in pornography.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - Cambodia",, [accessed <date>]

Torture in  [Cambodia]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Cambodia]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [Cambodia]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [Cambodia]  [other countries]