Cambodia is located on the Southeast Asian peninsula between the southern part of Vietnam and Thailand. It is a primarily agricultural country in which people depend on farming and fishing for their livelihood with approximately 70 — 80% of the population living in rural areas.
Cambodia's population is approximately 14 million, comprised of ethnic Khmer and minority groups. Most of Cambodia's population is Buddhist, with a sizeable minority Muslim group and indigenous people in the northeast.
Internationally, Cambodia is perhaps best known for its ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat — the largest religious monument in the world — and conversely, for the brutal Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-79, that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million people.
Cambodia was an underdeveloped country before the Khmer Rouge regime. However, the destruction of all social, health, educational and financial systems by the Khmer Rouge had a devastating effect that is still felt today.
Human rights abuses remain prevalent in Cambodia. Crimes against women and children — such as rape, human trafficking and domestic violence — not only continue, but, in some cases, appear to have increased over time. Problems with governance remain one of the greatest hindrances to realizing respect for human rights. The governance system often fails to punish crimes, and perpetuates other abuses due to corruption, impunity for the powerful and a lack of political will to reform.
Human trafficking is a horrific practice in which individuals are forced or coerced into migration, forced labor, prostitution, and/or exploitation. Trafficked individuals are regularly sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abused.
The trafficking of people is a growing business in Cambodia. Individuals are regularly moved within Cambodia and through it to bordering nations like Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. According to the US State Department, "Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to trafficking in person, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution."
Women and children are predominately trafficked for the purpose of forced labor, domestic work, and sex work. Individuals are usually sold or stolen by family members, friends, and strangers.
Many individuals who have been trafficked, especially those who have been sexually abused, have a hard time understanding how they fit into society. Many feel ashamed and experience extremely low self-worth, depression, and shame. As a result, they are susceptible to making unhealthy lifestyle choices. These choices may lead them to enter situations in which they are repeatedly abused, exploited, and/or possibly even re-trafficked.
Job training and education can do a great deal to help a survivor rebuild their confidence and can assist them in finding their place in society. However, these types of skills must be coupled with activities that help heal the body, mind and soul. Without extensive life-skill training and therapy, an individual is likely to face many difficulties outside the support of their reintegration program. As Justice Children International explains, "Programs that only emphasize job training often ignore dealing with the trauma of trafficking and sexual abuse… The pressure to start a small business might also push the girl to leave before she is ready. The small businesses often fail, due to ill prepared and 'not yet recovered' state of the reintegrating girl."
In recent times, a number of researchers have investigated reintegration models and assessed which are the most successful. Practically all the research has shown that each case of trafficking is unique and that no model works across the board. However, there are some overarching principles that a reintegration program should follow.
Researchers have found that survivors must be able to participate as much as possible in their recovery process. Many survivors of trafficking have spent a significant part of their lives feeling totally out of control of their bodies and their lives. It is important to make the person feel empowered and in control of their situation. They need to regain a sense of safety and self-worth. According to a group of health professionals, it is paramount that these survivors "be encouraged to seek information, question their options, and assert their choices."1Kirchherr, Cjet. (2007, pg10). "The Reintegration Process of Two Girls Trafficked for Labor and Sexually Abused." Justice for Children International. 2Zimmerman, Cathy, Borland, Rosilyne. (2009, pg 27). "Caring for Trafficked Persons; Guidance for Health Care Providers." International Organization for Migration. Switzerland.no