Cablegate: Cambodia Tier 2 Announcement: Government Pledges

DE RUEHPF #0463/01 1581040
P 061040Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: During a June 5 meeting with Charge
d'Affaires, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng expressed pleasure that the
U.S. had recognized Cambodia's hard work to combat
trafficking in persons (TIP) by placing Cambodia on Tier 2
for 2008, and pledged that the government will do more.
Following the meeting, the Charge and the DPM held a joint
press conference with 45 media representatives -- more media
reps than the Mission has counted at other Embassy affiliated
press conferences. Sar Kheng reiterated his message in
comments to the press, stating that Cambodia aspires to be a
Tier 1 country fully compliant with the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act (TVPA). During the press conference,
questions were taken regarding recent reports by prostitutes'
rights groups that a recently intensified effort to shut down
brothels has led to the abuse of prostitutes while in
security force detention, and to a lack of access to HIV/AIDS
prevention and treatment. On TIP and HIV/AIDS, the Charge
responded that this is not an "either-or" proposition -- we
need to think of strategies that will work to target both U.S
priorities. End summary.

Cambodia Pleased With Tier Rating, Seeks To Do More
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) The Charge officially delivered the news of
Cambodia's Tier 2 ranking to DPM Sar Kheng on June 5. The
DPM said it was with "extreme happiness" that he received the
news of being upgraded from Tier 2 Watch List, and that he
was pleased that the U.S. Government had recognized
Cambodia's hard work to combat TIP. He said that Cambodia's
success cannot be disconnected from the cooperation and
assistance of the U.S. through which Cambodia has gained
experience and ideas that will be the basis for the country's
future work. Sar Kheng, who had clearly read the report
carefully, remarked that he is not yet satisfied with
Cambodia's anti-TIP efforts and agreed with the TIP Report's
recommendations. During a joint press conference following
the meeting, Sar Kheng was honest in recognizing remaining
challenges and told the press that Cambodia will strive over
time to reach a Tier 1 rating. (Note: DPM and Minister of
Interior Sar Kheng has largely led Cambodia's anti-TIP
efforts from the highest levels of the government, and
currently serves as the head of the government's High Level
Working Group overseeing the Cambodian anti-TIP National Task
Force (NTF). End note.)

Anti-TIP Inter-Agency Cooperation Is Key

3. (SBU) During the meeting, Sar Kheng noted what he
believes are some of the most significant achievements over
the past year including greater government inter-agency
cooperation in combating TIP, and improved cooperation with
NGOs, international actors, and others that work on this
issue. He mentioned he has also seen cooperation between the
government and restaurant, hotel, and entertainment
establishment owners.

4. (SBU) The DPM reflected on internal meetings held over
the past year with MOI, Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA),
and other NTF officials that put into place the steps to
accomplish the significant activities mentioned in the TIP
Report this year. He specifically mentioned meetings
regarding the structuring of the National Task Force and the
High Level Working Group as an oversight mechanism. He said
the government remains committed to holding meetings about
the next steps for the country, including implementation of
the new anti-TIP law. The Charge commented on the RGC's
recognition and ownership of its TIP problem, its willingness
to address the issue, and its continued determination to act
on behalf of its most vulnerable citizens.

Questions on TIP, HIV/AIDS; Reports of Prostitutes Abused
--------------------------------------------- ------------

5. (U) DPM Sar Kheng took questions regarding recent reports
by prostitutes' rights groups that the RGC's anti-TIP efforts
have led to brothel closures where HIV/AIDS and reproductive
health workers previously had access to provide prevention
information and condoms. Reports have indicated that
prostitutes fear they will be targeted by police if they
actively seek such health services. In addition, the DPM
took a question about related reports that brothel raid
activity has resulted in detained prostitutes being raped or
otherwise abused by police and security guards while in
detention. The DPM said the RGC would investigate these
allegations, with both MOI and the Ministry of Women's

PHNOM PENH 00000463 002 OF 002

Affairs playing a role, along with the NTF.

6. (U) Some of the rights groups are critical of the
country's new anti-TIP law as the "instigator" of the
targeting of prostitutes. Sar Kheng said that the RGC stands
by its own law -- a law that is not meant to be an attack on
prostitutes but to stop pimps and others benefiting from
exploitation. He insisted that the government's efforts are
not stopping here and that the NTF and the ministries
involved will continue to be leaders in the efforts to stop
TIP and to look at all of the issues involved.

7. (U) According to PAO, the joint press conference drew
more than 45 media representatives, a larger showing than any
other U.S. Mission-affiliated press conference he's seen at
post. Press coverage overall was non-sensational and
accurately portrayed accomplishments and remaining
challenges. Some of the media reports also highlighted
issues raised by the groups working with prostitutes.


8. (SBU) One local English press article on the TIP Report
announcement quoted two anti-TIP NGO representatives who
welcomed the tier rating news, one stating that it serves as
evidence that anti-trafficking efforts are working. After a
year of hard work by the RGC to better address its TIP
problems, it is noteworthy that the government is not resting
on its laurels. While we understand that Sar Kheng was
elated by news of Cambodia's upgrade, he was quite focused
during both our private meeting and the press conference on
the need for continued attention to this still-immense
problem. Backed by senior members of the NTF, he presented
the picture of a serious, all-of-government commitment.
Even as the government faces a backlash from groups critical
of its policies the RGC has remained open to information and
suggestions to help it improve.

© Scoop Media

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