Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking in Cambodia as a Threat to Human Security

Referring to the United Nations on Drugs and Crimes, human trafficking is the act of recruiting, transporting, harboring, sending, transferring or receiving someone with the threat of violence, use of violence, kidnapping, confinement, forgery, fraud, abuse of power, debt bondage, payment or benefits, which are carried out within the country or abroad with the aim of exploitation or resulting in people being exploited. This practice is categorized as Transnational Organized Crime because it has a wide network, making it very difficult to find the roots of the organization. Victims of human trafficking can include men, but are predominantly women and children. Departing from this problem, this article will analyze the relationship between human security and human trafficking. This problem is very important to discuss because it has existed since ancient times and is increasingly developing due to globalization. This article will also analyze why women are a group that is vulnerable to human trafficking, especially sex trafficking. Therefore, this article will use a socialist feminist perspective as a supporting theory to describe why women dominate as victims in this practice.

This article uses a case study of the human trafficking problem in Cambodia. Human trafficking in Cambodia is carried out by international criminal syndicates from various countries where casinos, dormitories, hotels and office complexes are centers for criminal operations carrying out crypto, investment and online gambling fraud. Victims of human trafficking are tortured or sold from one criminal group to another if they refuse to work. Some are also trafficked to Shwe Kokko, namely the Karen region of Myanmar (Lam, 2022). Online gambling in Cambodia has been banned since 2019, but there are still many reports of human trafficking in which victims from many countries are hired and trafficked to casinos which continue with telecommunications fraud, romance, investment and cryptocurrency fraud (Hunt, 2022). Apart from that, victims of this illegal practice are not only used as forced laborers, but are also exploited as sex workers, such as forced marriages and pornography, which often occur in the Mekong River area such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Human Rights and Human Security

Human Security can be interpreted in many forms depending on the perspective. Human security is security that concerns individual security and is related to the fulfilment of the basic right to life, including the creation of social, political, economic, military, environmental and cultural conditions necessary for the survival, livelihood and dignity of individuals. Therefore, human security does not focus on the threat of violence alone, but is also related to poverty, pollution, health, and vital protection at the core of human life which is supported by increasing freedom and fulfilling life. It is not easy to define this vital framework in human security because the values identified refer to serious threats to human security. Therefore, human security requires normative human rights (Dersso, 2008).

Human rights help to define affirmatively the vital essence that human security seeks to protect. Human rights also determine the legal steps that stakeholders need to take to protect human freedom and improve the welfare of their society. Therefore, the vital aspects contained in the core of human life are formed as a high-level consensus by the international community through human rights. The emphasis on the relationship between human security and human rights can be seen in the declaration made in José, Costa Rica that: Human rights and their characteristics are derived from human dignity which is a form of normative framework and conceptual reference point that must be applied in the construction and practice of the idea of security. man. In the same way, without prejudice to consider the norms and principles of international humanitarian law as the most important component in creating human security (Dersso, 2008).

Furthermore, these values can also be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) which are international rules that use the basic concept of human rights. These rights include the rights to life, liberty, security and personal safety, equality and non-discrimination, fair trial, family, privacy, participation, work, social security, adequate standard of living, health, education and culture. More broadly it also includes freedom from torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and freedom of religion, expression, association and demonstration. Simultaneously, human security also focuses on threats to the well-being of individuals and communities and plays an important role in identifying conditions that put those rights at risk. Human security is also important to ensure the human rights protection system is urgent and effective in responding to threats of human rights violations. This can be seen in the analysis pattern which focuses on an early warning framework to help detect and analyze crisis situations (Howard-Hassmann, 2012).

These two concepts complement each other to realize human security, where they combine two strategies related to protection and empowerment. The emphasis of these two concepts is also the same, namely on equality and non-discrimination which is useful for dealing with the threat of human security conflict. So the mechanism will offer protection related to norms, processes and institutions that can protect against danger and deal with insecurity. The strategy also emphasizes the need to defend freedom and develop capabilities to overcome insecurity. The relevance of human rights in realizing human security depends on the implementation of human rights norms by states and stakeholders. The definition of human security comes from a broad concept, relating to individual welfare to a narrower concept of protection. Human rights and human security are interrelated, human rights form the core and normative foundation of human security (Howard-Hassmann, 2012).

Human Trafficking as Human Rights Violation

Human trafficking can be both a cause and a consequence of human rights violations, so the promotion and protection of human rights is very relevant to overcome it. Violations of human rights occur at various stages of human trafficking, such as the right to life, liberty, security, the right to freedom of movement, the right not to be subjected to torture, the right to be humanized, and not to be dehumanized. Human rights are at the heart of any anti-trafficking strategy, this approach also identifies and addresses the discriminatory practices and distribution of power that underlie human trafficking. Empowerment, self-representation and participation of those affected by human trafficking are basic principles for a human rights and human security-based approach. Survivors’ participation must be active, free and meaningful, empowering them to reflect their views in relevant policies (LCHT, 2018).

This violation can be seen in cases that occurred in Cambodia. Forced workers from across countries were lured with promises of work and then forced to commit fraud against foreigners with threats of beatings, electric shocks and torture if they did not comply. Furthermore, victims are also forced to cheat in love through messaging applications and work to kidnap future victims (Lindsey Kennedy N. P., 2022). This condition is very threatening to human security, because this practice has the potential to spread and spread to people’s lives. Not only that, the condition of the Cambodian country, including government and social and political conditions, is still unstable, so it is very vulnerable to this practice. Human trafficking is also defined as a business that steals freedom for profit by attempting to trick or physically force victims to provide sexual services. Trafficking that occurs in women and children generally aims to exploit sexual labor in the sex industry and pornography by treating them as non-human commodities (Winarno, 2014). This action has implications for human rights violations due to the abuse of humans as commodities or what is called modern slavery because both men, women and children are used as forced labor.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution in Cambodia

The Sihanoukville region was home to legal gambling until 2019, however due to bans and travel restrictions due to Covid-19 many legal casinos were forced to close so the group sought other funding streams through illegal online gambling and investment scams. This practice is orchestrated by organized crime groups from China who take advantage of fast internet connections and weak law enforcement in Cambodia (Lindsey Kennedy N. p., 2022). This business of sexual exploitation is turned into pornography which can generate profits of 3 billion to 20 billion US Dollars per year, most of which comes from Thailand and Cambodia (Khairi, 2021).

Cambodia is not only a source country that functions as a supplier of prostitutes to other countries in sex trafficking, but this country is also a transit point for various syndicates from China, Vietnam and Thailand. Even the regulations provided by the Cambodian government are still weak in dealing with this crisis. The majority of these women are trafficked internally to areas such as Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The main problem is the increasing demand for young girls for prostitution, with many foreign men willing to pay $800 to $4000 for this. Cambodia is even described as a tourist destination where people can have sex through prostitution services. These tourists are willing to travel and pay money to have sex with underage girls (Niamvanichkul, 2013).

Globalization is one of the causes of the increasing development of Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) because the emergence of global markets, sophisticated technology, and greater and easier movement of people gives power to criminal networks that were previously only in one country. In the past, crime was only concentrated in one area, now criminal groups are seen as networks that can easily imitate official trade, building franchises that can cross national borders (Capie, 2016). This condition will actually make it even more difficult to handle, because these groups will build networks that are centered and operate in different places so as not to be detected. This can be seen in the conditions that occur in Cambodia, these casinos collaborate with criminal syndicates to find other sources of funding through human trafficking which ends in slavery and prostitution.

Women are the most vulnerable group in the practice of human trafficking, especially in prostitution. The increasing number of human traffickers in the sex industry in Cambodia is the result of poverty, lack of education, and social conditions including pressure to contribute more income to their families. Apart from that, economic development such as the expansion of the tourist industry, privatization and corruption are also drivers of this practice. This condition is also increasing because of the existence of gender relations in Cambodian society which interact to create conditions that support the development of the sex industry (Sari, 2010).

This condition can be analyzed using a socialist feminist approach which argues that socialist gender will be related to global capitalism (proletarian & bourgeois). In the case of human trafficking, women are the most vulnerable group and have commercial value as commercial sex. This theory describes how Marxists and Socialist feminists focus on how capitalism and patriarchy place women in an under-privileged position. In socialist feminism, women are positioned as a proletarian (vulnerable) group while men are the bourgeoisie who have influence and control. Capitalism is based on private ownership of the means of production, which is a system that is incapable of providing the kind of justice, equality and fulfillment that it believes in. The forces that drive capitalist economies are never compatible with care, love, justice, oversight, or mercy (COLLINS, 1976).

This theory is also interpreted as a dual system of capitalism and patriarchy which discusses the oppression of women. Capitalism is considered an oppressive mode of production, while patriarchy is an oppressive mode of reproduction. In the case of human trafficking, women are used as commodities and forced labor to gain profits for brokers or traffickers. The practice of human trafficking in Cambodia has increasingly developed since the Sihanoukville area became China’s Belt and Initiatives economic zone, which opened up opportunities for criminal syndicates from China to enter. Moreover, Sihanoukville is a Cambodian port area so it can be said to be the entry point for trade, investment and criminal syndicate activities. The conditions that occur in Cambodia cannot be separated from the influence of global capitalism which also influences the demand for prostitution which is also provided by casinos in the region (Lindsey Kennedy N. p., 2022).

Women are used as commodities and slaves to provide surplus to the criminal syndicate. Moreover, the existence of driving factors such as economics is also another reason why they easily fall into this practice. Human traffickers use the “Pull” and “Push” factors by promising increased opportunities for their victims (Loring Jones, 2007). The driving factor in question refers to poverty so that it encourages someone to move away from a certain environment. Meanwhile, pull factors can refer to perceptions of increased economic opportunities, thereby attracting people to a particular environment (Loring Jones, 2007). People who live in poorer neighborhoods will experience greater life stress and encourage them to move to new neighborhoods that can provide greater opportunities for their quality of life. Therefore, it is very easy for them to become victims or perpetrators of human trafficking.

This condition actually increasingly threatens human security not only in the region, but also throughout the world, because the victims of human trafficking come from various countries as well. According to the UNDP, human security includes economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. Human trafficking is a crime that can threaten human existence and violate human freedom. The perpetrators of this activity will form trans organized crime, namely transnational crime which can create unsafe conditions for humans because there are threats from this practice (T.R, 2020). However, this condition can also be driven by conditions in the region or country such as institutional incompetence, legal vacuum, as well as low economic and educational levels.

This problem not only threatens personal security but also covers wider community security. Efforts need to be made to overcome this problem, one of which is not only viewing human trafficking as a criminal act but paying more attention to the smallest system of the community, namely the individual. These efforts can include increasing human development, expanding opportunities, looking equally, and expanding choices in living life. In this way, this effort will try to improve the smallest system, namely the individual, which will then influence the wider system, namely society.

Rabiyatul Adawiyah
Rabiyatul Adawiyah
Rabiyatul Adawiyah is currently pursuing her postgraduate education on Master of International Relations program at Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. Has an enormous interest on foreign policy and security especially for human security.