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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Cambodia pressed over sex trade
Sex worker in Cambodia
Thousands of young women and children are affected
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has called on Cambodia to help stop the trafficking of women and children for south-east Asia's sex industry.

Mrs Robinson, speaking before the Cambodian National Assembly in the capital Phnom Penh welcomed recent government efforts to fight the trade in people.


I want to ask you today to work with me, with the United Nations and the international community to bring human trafficking to a halt

Mary Robinson
But she said a firm political will and judicial reform were needed to help end the problem.

Mrs Robinson is also holding talks with Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen during her two-day visit.

An estimated 200,000 women and children fall victim to human trafficking in the region every year.

Life of misery

"Every day, in many countries of this world, women and children are bought and sold, transported against their will, and forced into lives of prostitution, pornography, slave labour and utter misery," Mrs Robinson said.

Mary Robinson
Robinson criticised the inadequate judiciary

"Cambodia is a source, as well as a transit and receiving country... I want to ask you today to work with me, with the United Nations and the international community to bring human trafficking to a halt," she added.

The country also faces problems with women being trafficked within Cambodia from rural to urban areas.

"Most of the in-country trafficking occurs for purposes of sexual exploitation, being linked to prostitution and mainly concerns women and children," she said.

Corruption

Cambodia's government is working on legislation to curb the human trade, completing a soon to be adopted law on human trafficking and sexual exploitation last week.

Young prostitutes in Thailand
200,000 women and children are trafficked each year

But Cambodia's judiciary has a reputation for being corrupt, ineffectual and in dire need of a shake-up and Mrs Robinson said much more must be done.

"Traffickers are able to operate with impunity because of inefficient law enforcement, compounded in some cases by official corruption," Mrs Robinson said.

"A responsive and effective judiciary, adequately sensitised to the problem of trafficking and its human rights dimensions, is essential to secure accountability for traffickers, and justice for victims," she added.

In the course of her visit human rights groups have also asked Mrs Robinson to raise the issue of the reported disappearance of two Falun Gong members and a Vietnamese Buddhist who had sought refuge in Cambodia.

Khmer Rouge tribunal

Also on Wednesday Cambodia welcomed a renewed overture from the United Nations to assist with the establishment of a genocide tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The UN suspended negotiations on the issue in February after deciding that a joint tribunal with Cambodia's judicial system was unlikely to succeed.

On Tuesday, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was willing to resume talks if he is given a mandate by the Security Council.

"I believe this is the opening of the door after a deadlock. This could be a way out," said National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mu Sochua
Cambodian Women's Minister speaks to East Asia Today
See also:

20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 02 | Europe
20 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
17 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
16 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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