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"I would rank Cambodia right up there with India as one of the worst places in the world for sex-trafficking." A bad problem getting worse According to the NGO, End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking (ECPAT), as many as one-third of all sex workers in Cambodia are children. "We are making major strides in the fight against human trafficking.
But it is a major problem, we know that," said Ambassador-at-Large Luis Cde Baca, who leads the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
"You have estimates as to the number of people in servitude worldwide and it's anywhere from 12.3 million on the low end as cited by UN's International Labour Organization -- to as many as 27 million people on the high end.
But 12.3 million is a baseline number that everybody agrees that there are at least that many people in forced labor, and that's far too many." In its comprehensive 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department put Cambodia on its Tier 2 Watch List.
The ranking means the Cambodian government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making an effort to do so.
"[In Cambodia] the number of victims is increasing and the number of prosecutions has gone down from the previous year," says Cde Baca.
"The report shows that despite the overall effort, the government has not shown enough progress in convicting and punishing human trafficking offenders or protecting trafficking victims." Cambodia is categorized as a destination country for foreign child sex tourists, with increasing reports of Asian men traveling to Cambodia in order to have sex with underage virgin girls.
The State Department report states a significant proportion of trafficking victims in Cambodia are ethnic Vietnamese women and girls who are forced into prostitution in brothels and karaoke bars.