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Monday, May 10, 2010

The dangers in trafficking Cambodian men

Tens of thousands of Cambodians cross into neighbouring countries each year in search of work. But agreeing to work abroad illegally can be dangerous not least for men who are generally not seen as being at much risk.

Presenter: Robert Carmichael
Speakers: Louise Rose, victim protection officer, The Asia Foundation; Manfred Hornung, legal adviser at human rights NGO Licadho

CARMICHAEL: The phrase 'human trafficking' commonly conjures up images of women and children sold into servitude, bonded labour or brothels.

But men are of course trafficked too, although until recently the issue of male trafficking in south-east Asia was ignored and unstudied.

But at this hotel in Phnom Penh, delegates have gathered for a conference on the issue of regional migration, with a particular focus on Cambodia.

Louise Rose works as a victim protection officer for The Asia Foundation, an NGO, and spoke to delegates about male trafficking.

She says in recent years the issue of Cambodian men being trafficked onto fishing boats in Thailand and Malaysia has gained some attention, but information about the scale of the issue is limited.

Rose says the most comprehensive study to date is of 258 men who were returned to Cambodia through the southern province of Koh Kong. Most of the men had worked on fishing boats in Thailand.

She says the men - who represent just a fraction of more than 100,000 Cambodian men, women and children deported from Thailand each year - were asked about their motivations for migrating.

Researchers found that debt drove half to leave Cambodia and look for work. Two other factors were even more significant.

LOUISE ROSE: Lack of food was a huge one. Three-quarters of the men reported not enough food being a motivator for migrating. And the other one that was even higher again - no source of income.

CARMICHAEL: No jobs, no food, low skills, limited land, and few opportunities for the 350,000 young people entering the job market each year mean there is a large supply of ready labour in rural Cambodia.

Manfred Hornung is a legal adviser with human rights NGO Licadho. Over the past three years Licadho has interviewed more than 60 men brought back to Cambodia who were trafficked onto Thai fishing vessels.

He says the men's stories have a common thread, starting at the point where an agent turned up in their home village with promises of work.

MANFRED HORNUNG: So in most cases this broker won't tell these youngsters that they have to work on a fishing boat. They'll tell them he will find work for them in the construction sector or on a plantation in Thailand. In most cases they are promised well-paid jobs.

CARMICHAEL: The men are smuggled across the border into neighbouring Thailand, and then down to Pak Nam fishing port 30 kilometres south of Bangkok.

There they are locked in guesthouses until they are sold to the captains of vessels in Thailand's multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

Hornung says conditions on board the fishing boats can be horrific. And since the captain and Thai crew are often armed, press-ganged fishermen from Cambodia, Burma or Laos have few options.

MANFRED HORNUNG: A very typical story then is that once they are on the boats they have to work long hours - in most cases these young fishermen tell us that they have maybe two to three hours rest per night; that they receive very meagre rations of food, that they are constantly beaten; they are drugged because they have to work long hours; we have had reports that men who fell sick were thrown overboard.

CARMICHAEL: In some cases, matters are so bad that the men jump overboard at night and try to swim to land. That's what three Cambodians did off the coast off East Timor in February this year. Luckily they were rescued by local fishermen and are awaiting repatriation.

You might think it would be easy enough to jump ship when fishing boats reach port. But the decline in fish stocks means some boats stay at sea for months, and make contact only with mother-ships onto which they offload their catch.

The solution will require better cooperation among governments in the region, improved services for migrants, and education about the risks involved.

But until that happens, unscrupulous agents, corruption, poverty and a lack of jobs mean more of Cambodia's youth will experience this version of 21st century slavery.
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PM wants more trade with Cambodia

PHNOM PENH: Malaysia hopes to increase the number of goods involved in its trade with Cambodia, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said Malaysia trade base with Cambodia was very narrow and confined to a few products.

Red carpet treatement: Najib inspecting a guard-of-honour in Phnom Penh yesterday. accompanying him is Hun Sen. Bernama

“Malaysia’s main export to Cambodia are chemicals, machinery, appliances and electrical products while imports consist of textiles, clothing, raw rubber and logs from Cambodia,” he said at the Malaysia-Cambodia business forum luncheon here yesterday.

Najib said there was plenty of opportunities for both countries to expand the scope of products and services.

He said businessmen from both nations must continue to find ways and work together to enhance the bilateral trade and form strategic partnerships that would take advantage of the opportunities arising from the greater regional economic integration.

He said it was important for both nations to continue to work closely to improve trade relations through bilateral cooperation and active participation in Asean integration initiatives.

“The governments of both countries have taken steps to establish a framework for sustained cooperation in all economic and political areas and now is the time to mobilise our resources collectively for the economic development of Asean as a whole,” he added.

Najib said Cambodia had the potential to play a prominent role in Asia’s expansion.

Earlier, Najib held bilateral talks with his counterpart Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers.

He said Malaysia and Cambodia agreed to expand its two-way trade commitments and one of the topic discussed was Cambodia’s 3.5 million tonnes of rice surplus.

The country has invited Malaysian companies to set up mills to process the padi for export.

Najib said Cambodia was satisfied with the training provided under the Malaysia Technical Corporation and the number of scholarships provided by Petronas and other companies to Cambodians.

He said the Cambodian government has given an approval-in-principle for CIMB to open in the country after its application was submitted to the National Bank of Cambodia.

He said that with the approval, Malaysia would have five financial institutions operating in the country.

In the morning, Najib also attended the wreath-laying ceremony at the Independence Monument.

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Sand exports to Singapore harm Cambodia: watchdog

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia is engaged in destructive sand exports to fuel Singapore's rapid expansion despite a supposed government ban on the practice, an environmental watchdog said Tuesday.

London-based Global Witness said Cambodia was making a "mockery of the government's supposed May 2009 ban on sand-dredging", risking devastation to its coasts, endangered species, fish stocks and local livelihoods.

"There is no evidence that basic environmental safeguards have been applied, with boats reportedly turning up and dredging sand, often in protected areas, with no local consultation," said its new report, entitled "Shifting Sands".

The group, which has made many allegations of Cambodian cronyism in recent years, said Mong Reththy and Ly Yong Phat -- senators known to have close ties to premier Hun Sen -- have been covertly awarded licences to dredge sand.

"This situation highlights the continued failure of Cambodia's international donors to use their leverage to hold the small elite surrounding the prime minister to account," said George Boden, campaigner at Global Witness.

The report said investigators tracked sand-filled boats from Cambodia to Singapore, estimating concessions from southwestern Koh Kong province alone netted 20 million dollars per month for some 796,000 tonnes of sand.

Global Witness added that figures from other concessions along Cambodia's coast were not known, and there was no way to track whether revenues from sand exports reached the national treasury.

"In addition, Global Witness has seen Cambodian sand dredging and export licences which bear the stamp and signature of a representative of the Singapore Embassy in Cambodia," the report said.

Singapore has expanded its surface area by 22 percent since the 1960s, said the report, requiring vast quantities of imported sand from neighbours in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have halted sand exports to the city-state over concerns the practice depleted fish stocks and caused erosion.

The Cambodian government has banned past reports by Global Witness, which also accused donors of ignoring graft among elites who have allegedly been involved in illegal logging as well as shady oil and mining deals.
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CIMB given bank licence in Cambodia

CIMB Group (1023), Malaysia's second largest banking group by assets, has obtained the approval of Cambodia's central bank to offer banking services in the country.

It said the in-principle approval allows its commercial banking arm, CIMB Bank, to operate a wholly owned subsidiary in the country of 14 million people.

The group is required to set up its operations within six months.

"The group plans to establish its headquarters in Phnom Penh as soon as possible," its group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak (picture) said in a statement yesterday.
CIMB's entry into Cambodia means that it now has a presence in eight of the 10 countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

"This move further cements our position as a leading Asean franchise. We are excited about the long-term prospects for the Cambodian economy and believe we can contribute to the development of the domestic banking market and facilitate more trade and investment flows between Cambodia and other Asean markets," Nazir said.

Other Malaysian banks with a presence in Cambodia include Malayan Banking and Public Bank.
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