Cambodia has a turbulent and complicated history. From 1975 to 1979, Cambodia was controlled by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime where the educated and wealthy were targeted and all traditional forms of religion, commerce, education and healthcare came to a halt. Cambodia was sealed off from the world while its cities were forcibly evacuated and their residents forced into slave labor. According to UN estimates, between 2-3 million Cambodians lost their lives. In the following years, thousands of Cambodians spent years in refugee camps along the borders.
Cambodia is one of the least developed countries in the region due in part to its destabilizing past. Poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities have left many Cambodians, particularly women and children, in extremely vulnerable situations. These factors, compounded with the weakening of societal structures and traditions during the Khmer Rouge regime, have a significant impact on human trafficking and exploitation trends in the country.
- The population is 14.8 million
- 65% of Cambodians are under 25 years old, 33% under the age of 15.
- 1/3 of Cambodians live below the national poverty line (2,473 riel or US$0.61).
- 85% of the population lives in rural areas
- 50% of young girls in rural Cambodia work rather than go to school.
- The labor force increases at 250,000 per year, compared with the current 350,000 jobs in the whole garment industry, by far the leading industry in Cambodia.
- Trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.
- Prevalence of trafficking in Cambodia is highly contested, with few available statistics for Cambodia.
- Government estimates say there are over 34,000 commercial sex workers in Cambodia, and other sources say as many as one third are children.
- Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking in persons:
- within Cambodia, largely from rural to urban areas;
- from Cambodia to Thailand, Malaysia and further afield including Taiwan, Korea, Somalia;
- from Vietnam, China and Eastern Europe into Cambodia.
- The traffickers are organized crime syndicates but also parents, relatives, friends, intimate partners and neighbors.