2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: Cambodia


The Government of Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Cambodia remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers, creating a special working group to investigate credible reports of large-scale cyber scam operations involving indicators forced labor, and identifying and providing services for more Cambodian trafficking victims. However, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes, including by high-level senior officials, remained widespread and endemic, resulted in selective and politically motivated enforcement of laws, and inhibited law enforcement action during the year. Authorities did not investigate or hold criminally accountable any officials involved in widespread, credible reports of complicity, in particular with unscrupulous business owners who subjected thousands of men, women, and children throughout the country to human trafficking in cyber scam operations, entertainment establishments, and brick kilns. Law enforcement did not effectively address forced labor in cyber scam operations. The government persistently failed to equitably screen or provide justice in trafficking crimes for foreign workers removed from cyber scam operations; it did not proactively screen them for human trafficking indicators. As a result, authorities did not provide or refer foreign potential victims of cyber scam operations to services, inappropriately penalized them for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked, including through holding these victims in indefinite detention until they paid bribes to police for release or their foreign embassy funded their deportation.


  • Investigate and prosecute traffickers involved in forced labor crimes in cyber scam operations, including complicit officials.
  • Fully implement victim identification guidelines, apply them to both domestic and foreign suspected victims, and train officials in all areas of the country on their use.
  • Screen all individuals in immigrant detention or custody for human trafficking indicators, including foreign workers, men and boys, LGBTQI+ individuals, and persons with disabilities.
  • Investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase funding to anti-trafficking law enforcement units and disburse it in advance of investigations, rather than by reimbursement.
  • Allocate increased resources to anti-human trafficking police to better facilitate the monitoring of defendants released under judicial supervision pending trial.
  • Increase or start unannounced labor inspections in high-vulnerability professions, especially in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and at brick kilns, entertainment venues, construction sites, and plantations, with a focus on identifying labor trafficking and debt bondage and holding business owners accountable to the law.
  • Increase the availability of services for male victims, especially men and boys exploited in commercial fishing abroad.
  • Incentivize domestic and foreign victims’ participation in criminal and civil proceedings, including by establishing a victim’s fund and granting permission to work, temporary residency, or other relevant immigration status to foreign victims wishing to remain in country during proceedings.
  • Implement a system for monitoring, collecting, and reporting data on anti-trafficking prosecution and victim protection efforts, and disseminate data among the relevant government agencies in a manner that protects victims’ identities and privacy.
  • Eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by Cambodian labor recruiters and ensure they are instead paid by employers.
  • Increase inspection and oversight of lending institutions, including private micro-finance organizations, to reduce vulnerability to debt-based coercion among economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Allow restitution upon conviction of the trafficker and establish and train relevant officials on procedures for calculating and granting restitution.
  • Establish and allocate resources to implement systematic procedures at diplomatic missions to assist Cambodian victims abroad, including in countries without Cambodian diplomatic representation.
  • Amend regulations on labor recruitment licensure and contract requirements to include strengthened language on worker protections and labor rights.
  • Strengthen efforts to inspect private labor recruitment agencies and their sub-licensed brokers for fraudulent recruitment and other trafficking indicators.
  • Incorporate NGO input into the policy for formally transferring custody of child victims.


The government maintained mixed law enforcement efforts; official complicity remained a significant concern. The 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. NGOs reported that, in practice, the government did not issue criminal penalties under the anti-trafficking law for labor traffickers; instead, it utilized the labor law to issue fines and/or short jail sentences of six days to one month, which did not represent sufficient punishment to deter future crimes or provide justice for victims.The government did not maintain a centralized record or database of investigations and judicial proceedings; therefore overall law enforcement data was incomplete. For the second year, the police did not report comprehensive data on anti-trafficking investigations it conducted. However, as part of a three month police operation to investigate reports of human trafficking across the country, police reported investigating 600 cases; authorities did not provide details on the investigations or if any trafficking prosecutions resulted from these investigations. In 2022, Ministry of Justice (MOJ) personnel manually collected prosecution and conviction data from each district court throughout the country. Nevertheless, as in the prior reporting period, judicial authorities may have included cases of rape and other crimes outside the international standard definition of trafficking in their reported data; therefore, the true number of trafficking prosecutions and convictions was likely lower than reported. In 2022, the government prosecuted 292 suspected traffickers involved in 88 cases under the anti-trafficking law; 16 of these cases involved sex trafficking, 24 involved forced labor, and 47 involved unspecified forms of trafficking. This compared with 64 total cases prosecuted under the anti-trafficking law in 2021; four of which involved sex trafficking, 37 involved forced labor, and 23 involved unspecified forms of trafficking. The government reported it convicted 174 traffickers, including 13 for sex trafficking and 42 for forced labor; this compared with 38 traffickers convicted in 2021, including one for sex trafficking and 35 for forced labor). Observers reported at least three of these convictions were not of traffickers, but were instead victim advocates engaged in and punished for their attempts to free victims from cyber scam operations. In some instances, courts provided verdicts verbally and did not officially record them. Courts also may have convicted in absentia traffickers who evaded arrest. The law allowed for retrials for suspects who evaded arrest and were convicted in absentia, and observers reported courts often acquitted traffickers convicted in absentia upon retrial due to corruption and official complicity.

Nationwide, law enforcement authorities often did not investigate or prosecute suspected or convicted traffickers despite credible allegations due to both resource constraints and official complicity. Some defendants fled prior to their trial dates as judicial police lacked resources to monitor them when released on “judicial supervision” pending trial; courts convicted the traffickers in absentia. Authorities rarely issued arrest warrants for absconded defendants unless NGOs assisted in tracking and apprehending them. Cambodian criminal procedural code featured no guidelines, monitoring provisions, or language outlining specific law enforcement duties with regard to judicial supervision. Citing resource constraints, prosecutors and investigating judges did not advance all of the trafficking cases for which police had supplied evidence. Local experts continued to report that cases involving foreign suspects were more likely to result in trafficking convictions than cases involving Cambodian suspects, for whom officials often reduced charges to less serious offenses. The government increased anti-trafficking operations in provinces outside the capital, but rural and remote communities did not benefit from equitable implementation of the law due to official complicity and corruption, as law enforcement in these regions did not prosecute alleged traffickers with connections to government officials.

The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes at many levels of government remained significant concerns, hindering law enforcement action and perpetuating impunity during the year. Observers reported local authorities, law enforcement, and security forces directly facilitated trafficking crimes by colluding with criminal networks. NGOs continued to report trafficking victims accused Cambodian officials of conspiring with labor brokers to commit trafficking crimes. NGOs also continued to allege police and other officials were complicit in cyber scam operations that forced thousands of People’s Republic of China (PRC), Southeast Asian, and other foreign nationals to work in “call centers” in Sihanoukville and other locations. Observers alleged prosecutors and judges accepted bribes in return for dismissal of charges, acquittals, and reduced sentencing. Corrupt officials often thwarted progress in cases where the perpetrators allegedly had political, criminal, or economic ties to government officials. Law enforcement raids on establishments where authorities believed sex trafficking occurred were sometimes unsuccessful due to advance warning from working-level police. Some police reportedly protected the establishments in exchange for monthly payments from the business owners or sexual favors from the victims. Authorities often overlooked, denied, or downplayed labor abuses – including forced child labor – in factories and at brick kilns, and colluded with brick manufacturers to arrest, jail, and return indentured laborers who had attempted to escape. Observers reported customs and immigration officials accepted bribes from traffickers to facilitate trafficking victims‘ entry into Cambodia; traffickers then primarily exploited these victims in cyber scam operations.

The government reported the MOJ formed a special working group to monitor and investigate reports of large human trafficking operations in “high risk” areas, including Preah Sihanouk, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Svay Rieng, Takeo, and Kandal provinces. Officials reported investigating 600 cases as part of a three-month operation beginning in August 2022, however, the government did not provide further details on any of these cases. Observers reported government officials with knowledge of police operations alerted the cyber scam operators prior to police raids. NGOs reported high-ranking officials harassed and intimidated human trafficking advocates involved in combating forced labor in cyber scam operations.

The government reported it cooperated with the governments of the PRC, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam on human trafficking investigations, but it did not report law enforcement cooperation with foreign governments on investigating trafficking in cyber scam operations. It also maintained formal bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) outlining cross-border anti-trafficking efforts, including information sharing, investigations and prosecutions, with India, Malaysia, the PRC, Thailand, and Vietnam. The government signed a new SOP with Thailand on law enforcement cooperation and continued to negotiate a police cooperation MOU with Indonesia. The government continued to cooperate with the United States through a law enforcement task force dedicated to combating online child sexual exploitation and other child sex crimes.

The government – in collaboration with and through funding from NGOs and other donors – increased training for police, prosecutors, judges, and other government officials on anti-trafficking laws, investigative techniques, evidence collection, victim identification, and protection guidelines. Despite this training, many police – particularly in rural areas – remained unaware of how to conduct anti-trafficking work, as most did not receive training on basic law enforcement techniques. Moreover, law enforcement and judicial officials lacked the necessary equipment to handle trafficking cases appropriately, including vehicles, computer and communications equipment, and forensic tools. As a result, criminals’ technical sophistication in hiding and destroying evidence during police raids limited the collection of evidence and hindered the government’s ability to prosecute perpetrators. The government required the funding of all anti-trafficking investigative work to be conducted through reimbursement, forcing individual police units to cover relevant expenses with personal funds. NGOs reported some officers waited months for this reimbursement, which was sometimes not repaid in full, and the ensuing financial hardships made some police units more susceptible to corruption. Local organizations and some officials continued to stress an urgent need for more sophisticated evidence collection techniques – including more undercover investigations – to decrease reliance on witness testimony and improve efforts to detect and combat sex trafficking. MOJ officials reported their concern that revising the law or issuing new regulations to specifically authorize undercover investigative authority in trafficking cases could lead to abuse of power by the police.


The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government reported identifying 925 victims or potential victims in 2022. While the law specified individuals could not be confirmed as trafficking victims until a criminal trial had ended with a conviction, the government could formally designate potential victims as “suspected victims” to allow them to receive services, including legal services. Authorities identified all the victims at the Poipet migrant transfer center; 915 were Cambodian and 10 were foreign victims (nine from Burma and one from Egypt). This compared with identifying 364 victims in the previous reporting period. The government reported screening 97,052 Cambodian adult and child migrants returning from Thailand; this compared with screening 8,370 Cambodian migrants working abroad in 2021. The government did not report screening other vulnerable groups, including workers in cyber scam operations, for trafficking indicators, and observers stated the government did not screen these workers. Foreign diplomats in the capital reported receiving hundreds of leads from potential victims trapped in cyber scam operations seeking assistance; Cambodian officials only acted to remove these potential victims from compounds in cases when embassy officials provided details on the potential victims’ location and identity. Foreign diplomats also reported authorities did not identify other potential victims at these locations or shut down cyber scam compounds even after accessing them to remove named potential victims.The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) had victim identification guidelines; but law enforcement agencies’ victim identification, referral, and repatriation efforts remained disparate and underdeveloped, and the government’s procedures were inadequate for foreign victims. Observers reported officials often did not follow established victim identification procedures for foreign victims recovered from cyber scam operation compounds, and instead detained and deported them without screening for human trafficking indicators or providing appropriate services. The government classified many of these cases as “labor disputes” instead of human trafficking. Due to insufficient victim identification efforts, authorities penalized potential foreign victims for immigration offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Some potential victims removed from cyber scam operations claimed police told them authorities would not allow them to return to their home countries if they officially reported their exploitation; authorities instead directed them to say they wanted to quit their jobs in the cyber scam operation.

MOSAVY officials regularly accompanied police during law enforcement activities, such as raids, to provide assistance to identified victims; if they were not present, police could screen for trafficking indicators and refer victims to a MOSAVY office. However, MOSAVY officials reported they did not participate in any coordinated law enforcement activities involving cyber scam operation compounds, including the previously mentioned large-scale MOJ formed special working group operation that began in August 2022. NGOs reported the Anti Commercial and Gambling Unit (ACGU) led most of the operation activities to remove potential victims from these compounds, rarely screened for trafficking, and did not coordinate with the MOSAVY to place victims in shelters; authorities instead treated potential victims as irregular migrants or civil plaintiffs. Local police sometimes referred victims directly to NGOs, who reported the overall referral process was quick and victims could access NGO-run shelters within hours of being identified. Despite this process, the government continued to implement a regulation barring NGOs from representing individuals seeking formal recognition as trafficking victims. Under this arrangement, authorities required victims to seek formal identification from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to access protection services. Some NGOs reported a lack of cooperation from authorities, which hindered their operations. The government’s referral procedures were inadequate for foreign potential victims recovered from cyber scam operation compounds. Authorities often designated foreign victims as irregular migrants and placed them in detention.

MOSAVY continued to operate the migrant transit center in the border town of Poipet and MOI operated another migrant transit center in the Kamrieng district of Battambang Province. Authorities provided reintegration services to and referred to NGO shelters an unreported number of Cambodian victims; the government also referred all 10 foreign victims identified at the Poipet migrant transit center to NGOs for services before repatriation. MOSAVY reported it provided services to 290 Cambodian victims and potential victims of trafficking who had returned from foreign countries, including from the PRC, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Nigeria. The government also referred 2,227 victims and suspected victims of trafficking to NGO-provided social services – it did not report how many of these were foreign victims. The government provided reintegration services for 91 Cambodian victims and “suspected” victims to return to their communities. In comparison in 2021, MOSAVY provided services to 404 Cambodian and foreign trafficking victims. The government could provide trafficking victims with a food allowance, living stipend for three months, job training, and reintegration assistance, but – as in the previous reporting period – MOSAVY relied heavily on financial support from NGOs to cover these services. The government did not have the capacity or resources available to provide adequate protection services, including shelter, to trafficking victims; it therefore continued to rely heavily on donor countries, international organizations, and NGOs to provide or support provision of such services to trafficking victims. MOSAVY maintained guidelines outlining minimum standards for residential care of trafficking victims. MOSAVY also managed long-term care and other assistance for child trafficking victims who could not reintegrate into their communities. The government, however, did not facilitate formal transfer of the custody of child trafficking victims to NGOs, leaving NGOs that accepted child victims into their care vulnerable to court action. Provisions allowing for financial settlements in lieu of harsher sentencing further discouraged some families from consenting to temporary guardianship at shelters; absent family consent, government officials at times returned children to high-risk environments, leaving them vulnerable to re-victimization. The government authorized public health facilities to provide free medical services to all migrant workers in Cambodia, including foreign trafficking victims; this policy relieved NGOs of the financial burden of providing medical care to this vulnerable population. The government had only limited services, including shelters, for male labor trafficking victims. However, the government continued to cooperate with an NGO to provide services to male victims exploited in the Thai commercial fishing industry. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) also provided vocational training and other programs to identify job opportunities for male trafficking victims from the commercial fishing industry, but it did not report how many victims benefited from these programs. Service provider NGOs noted an acute lack of reintegration services and cultural stigma surrounding the experience of forced labor at sea catalyzed re-trafficking of fishermen returning home.

The government continued to provide basic care to or assist in the repatriation of Cambodian victims who were exploited abroad, but it relied on donor organizations to finance the repatriation. Cambodian diplomatic missions overseas also lacked adequate funding and capacity to provide basic assistance to or repatriate victims; some victims were reportedly unable to secure assistance from Cambodian consular services overseas due to unattended hotlines and unresponsive staff. Victims identified in countries without Cambodian diplomatic representation had access to even less support. The government signed an agreement with Thailand finalizing SOPs on the repatriation and reintegration of Cambodian trafficking victims. In 2022, the MOI did not report working with PRC authorities to repatriate Cambodian women recruited through false promises of work in the PRC and forced into marriages with PRC nationals, in comparison with repatriating more than 300 Cambodian women in 2021, many of whom were likely trafficking victims.

The government required the repatriation of foreign victims, except in rare cases, and did not have legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship. While government policy previously ensured foreign victims awaiting repatriation could have temporary residence at NGO shelters, the government did not identify victims removed from cyber scam operation compounds as potential victims, precluding their access to shelters. The government reported it detained 920 people from 19 countries as part of the previously mentioned August 2022 MOJ special working group operation. The government did not provide monetary assistance for the repatriation of these victims, instead foreign victims’ respective embassies funded their repatriation. Media reported police demanded detained victims pay fees for basic amenities, including food, and also demanded payments from victims for their release from detention; some victims claimed they paid $5 for meals and $1,000-$3,000 for their release from detention centers. Media reported the government cooperated with foreign authorities from Indonesian, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan to repatriate victims from cyber scam operations.

The government did not require trafficking victims to participate in trafficking investigations or prosecutions to receive protection services. NGOs reported government-appointed attorneys did not give adequate attention to trafficking cases because the government did not compensate them for their work on these cases; some victims only met with their assigned attorneys on trial hearing days. There were no legal provisions to offer work permits, temporary residency, or other immigration status to foreign victims wishing to remain in Cambodia to participate in civil or criminal proceedings. As in previous years, Cambodia’s weak and corrupt judicial system and the lack of any victim and witness protection, exacerbated by a lengthy trial process and fear of retaliation by traffickers, hindered victims’ willingness to cooperate in many cases. NGOs reported victims preferred out-of-court settlements over court proceedings as the fastest way to obtain monetary compensation. Restitution was difficult to obtain due to a legal requirement delaying payment until after the completion of a trafficker’s jail term; convicted traffickers’ frequent abscondment further complicated this arrangement. Observers noted Cambodia lacked an SOP for determining how to calculate restitution or compensation. Victims rarely received the amount promised, and many victims’ families settled out of court with traffickers or accepted bribes to drop the relevant charges. Nevertheless, the government cooperated with two NGOs to secure $9,300 in restitution for trafficking victims in 2022. NGOs also reported judges had inadequate knowledge of victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches to engaging with victims in courtroom settings; this led to the re-traumatization of both child and adult trafficking victims.


The government maintained prevention efforts. The National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) and its secretariat coordinated anti-trafficking activities, continued to implement a 2019-2023 anti-trafficking National Action Plan (NAP), and completed a mid-term evaluation of the NAP. The government made the review available to the public, which found sub-national and national authorities did not coordinate sufficiently, the government did not provide sufficient resources for anti-trafficking activities, and interagency responsibilities overlapped. The NCCT produced an annual report documenting the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; the NCCT made the report available to the public. The NCCT chaired 344 meetings in 2022 with various ministries to elevate the importance of human trafficking within the government, compared with 274 in 2021. The NCCT regularly invited trafficking survivors to attend meetings and workshops to improve policies through survivors’ expertise and recommendations. The secretariat of the NCCT maintained six working groups to monitor the efforts of the interagency committee, as well as those of its provincial subcommittees. Subsidiary provincial committees to counter trafficking (PCCT), four of which continued to receive modest central government funds, coordinated efforts at the local level to mirror the activities of the NAP. Each PCCT maintained customized provincial-level action plans outlining how to report cases of trafficking to police, victim protection efforts, and prevention activities. The NCCT and various PCCTs – in cooperation with relevant ministries and NGO partners – trained government officials on anti-trafficking laws, investigation techniques, evidence collection, strategies to combat human trafficking, victim identification, protection of rights for trafficking victims, child protection, safe migration, and repatriation of suspected victims of trafficking. A Monitoring Working Group (MWG) continued to strengthen the work of the NCCT at the provincial level by meeting with provincial officials and assessing areas of improvement. The government trained Cambodian diplomatic personnel on trafficking as a part of their orientation prior to deploying abroad. The government did not report its anti-trafficking budget in 2022; the budget was approximately 2.2 billion riels ($543,080) in 2020, the last year for which data was available. NGOs reported the government’s weak funding for anti-trafficking activities led some NGOs to cover the expenses of government activities.The government – in collaboration with various donors and NGOs – disseminated information about trafficking laws, safe migration, child labor, and strategies to combat trafficking to law enforcement, other government personnel, and the general population. The government propagated 202,518 anti-trafficking awareness messages across the country, including radio broadcasts and incorporated into thousands of public events (such as town halls and community council meetings and including National Human Trafficking Day television and radio broadcasts and public school events), and senior officials spoke publicly about human trafficking. Senior officials acknowledged the scale of cyber scam operations and the existence of foreign trafficking victims in Cambodia. In 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts incorporated anti-trafficking messaging into its national cultural day celebration, the NCCT ran an awareness campaign for teachers focused on internet safety for children and preventing online child sexual exploitation (OCSE), and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports – in cooperation with NGOs – continued to implement a school curriculum to educate students about the risks of international migration and child labor.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Juvenile Police (AHTJP) and MOI continued to operate a hotline to report human trafficking crimes. The government did not report how many calls the hotline received (compared with 21 calls in 2021) and did not report whether any calls resulted in trafficking investigations or the identification of victims. The government reported an increase in engagement via social media platforms and the Cambodian National Police (CNP) website, which received more than 600 complaints of suspected human trafficking; 496 of these were received during the three month operation against cyber scams that began in August 2022. The government did not report if these complaints resulted in investigations, victim identification, or referrals to service. The Ministries of Labor and Foreign Affairs operated hotlines for Cambodians working abroad to seek assistance and report cases of human trafficking, but did not report how many calls Cambodian embassies received during 2022.

Observers reported officials pressured NGOs and public media outlets not to discuss or report on human trafficking crimes. The government revoked the press license of an independent media outlet known for having published critical reports on cyber scam operations in Cambodia for a non-trafficking-related news article.

The government did not prohibit the imposition of worker-paid recruitment or placement fees. Observers noted the high costs, complex administrative requirements, and restrictive provisions inherent to the formal migration process drove most Cambodian labor migrants to pursue informal pathways to working abroad. The MOLVT trained recruitment agencies and labor brokers on ethical recruitment practices to protect the rights of migrant workers. The government conducted 54 inspections focused on human trafficking vulnerabilities, including 10 at brick kilns, eight at agricultural enterprises, seven at factories, and the rest in other business sectors. MOLVT levied fines against one enterprise for failing to comply with the labor law. The MOLVT maintained offices at the provincial level to monitor recruitment agencies and address complaints from workers, including potential incidents of trafficking; however, it did not report how many complaints these offices received in 2022. The government also did not conduct inspections of recruitment agencies allegedly involved in trafficking crimes. In December 2022, the government established an Inter-Ministerial Committee, led by the MOI and MOLVT, to strengthen inspections of businesses that employ foreign workers, including inspections of businesses, casinos, and clubs where illegal gambling, online fraud, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, or money laundering was reported. Changes to these inspections were not implemented during the reporting period.

The MOLVT reported that it had conducted 498 pre-departure orientation briefings to 25,224 Cambodians migrating abroad for work, including 9,949 women, between January and December 2022. According to some NGOs working on human trafficking, many Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand were reportedly unaware of how to apply for travel documentation or how much it should cost – leaving them at higher risk of travel through informal, more vulnerable means – and the government did not take sufficient steps to publicize that information. In 2021, the NCCT reported Cambodian soldiers and police along the Thai border prevented 3,581 Cambodian migrant workers from entering Thailand, 1,325 of whom were women and 131 were children; however, the NCCT did not report if it screened these migrants for trafficking or referred them to protection services. Officials provided food to 1,270 Cambodian migrant workers at risk of or identified as trafficking victims in Thailand and helped two workers resolve a labor dispute with a foreign employer. In the Republic of Korea, Cambodian officials made 87 visits to worksites with Cambodian workers and resolved 137 labor disputes, while in Japan, Cambodian officials made 27 visits to worksites with a significant number of Cambodian workers and helped resolve 74 labor disputes. The government did not report if officials identified any trafficking victims among these labor dispute cases. The government maintained two labor recruitment agreements with Saudi Arabia, a domestic worker recruitment agreement with Hong Kong, and a bilateral cooperative agreement with India. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) continued to implement consular screening measures to reduce the sex and labor trafficking of Cambodian women via forced and fraudulent marriages, including by assessing applicants against trafficking victim profiles jointly developed with the PRC in 2016. However, the MFAIC did not report identifying potential victims during these screenings. The government also continued implementing a regulation passed in 2018 requiring foreign men to pay a fee if intending to return to their home countries with a Cambodian spouse; because this regulation only applied to air travel, observers reported an increase in the number of Cambodian women traveling through unsafe overland channels for marriage migration to the PRC. Between January and December 2022, MFAIC facilitated the return of 100,353 undocumented Cambodian migrant workers (including 41,178 women and 12,050 children) from the PRC, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Nigeria.

The MOLVT maintained an action plan aimed at reducing child labor and debt bondage in the service, agricultural, mining, and energy sectors by 2025 through awareness raising, legal action, and collaboration with civil society funded in part through the national budget. MOLVT officials continued to deny the existence of child labor – including forced child labor – and debt-based coercion within the brick industry. The MOLVT made 400 inspections in 2022 of brick kilns and sugar and cassava plantations, but did not report identifying any trafficking victims or cases of vulnerable children living on the kilns and plantations (compared with 350 cases in 2021). NGOs stated police were often unaware that detection of crimes at brick kilns fell under their investigative purview; the AHTJP viewed brick kiln inspections as under the MOLVT’s purview and would only investigate kilns if the MOLVT referred a case to them. The AHTJP did not report any such referrals during the reporting period. Authorities often conducted inspections with advance notification to the kiln owners, enabling them to avoid fines or conceal abuses by removing children from the kilns before an inspection. The Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the NCCT, made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts through three workshops for 91 staff in the tourism sector and government officials on child sexual exploitation in the tourism industry; it also continued to produce public-facing materials targeting potential consumers of commercial sex with children. In September 2022, the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC) released a report that found that 11 percent of internet-using children in Cambodia between ages 12-17 had experienced abuse and OCSE. The CNP maintained teams of anti-trafficking and cybercrime specialists in each province to investigate cases involving OCSE. The government – in coordination with an NGO – also worked with local tuk tuk and taxi drivers to receive reports of suspected human trafficking and child exploitation at hotels and guesthouses. However, as in prior years, the government generally focused on deterring foreign perpetrators of child sex tourism, rather than targeting the local population that constituted the main source of demand for commercial sex with children in Cambodia. The government denied entry to four foreign convicted sex offenders.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cambodia, and traffickers exploit victims from Cambodia abroad. NGOs and labor unions reported in 2020 that foreign labor brokers fraudulently recruit foreign migrants, including from Bangladesh, the PRC, and Nepal, to work in PRC-invested and other construction sites in Cambodia, where some are indebted to recruitment firms and experience passport confiscation. Beginning in 2021, the media has reported traffickers also subject Cambodian and foreign nationals to forced criminality in cyber scam operations run by locally operating PRC national-organized crime syndicates in call centers located in Cambodia. Increasingly, these traffickers use the internet and social media to fraudulently recruit men, women, and children from Cambodia and other countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America, for high-paying technical jobs abroad and force them to engage in online gambling, internet, cryptocurrency, and telephone scams, primarily in large commercial compounds in Cambodia. Traffickers often lure foreign victims to Cambodia with false job offers, only to subject them to forced detention and criminality. Victims often arrive through airports, but there are reports of brokers moving victims overland or by sea into Cambodia. Traffickers subject these workers to punishment for poor performance and disobedience, including, but not limited to, physical abuse, wage-docking, and debt-bondage, and may “resell” those who cannot meet sales quotas or repay recruitment debts to other criminal networks – for forced labor in similar fraud schemes, domestic servitude, or sex trafficking. NGOs estimate that as many as 100,000 workers are exploited in forced labor in these compounds in Cambodia. Until August 2022, these compounds were largely clustered in the port city of Sihanoukville, an SEZ under a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement between Cambodia and the PRC, but there are dozens of additional compounds throughout Cambodia, primarily along the borders with Thailand and Laos. In response to the Cambodian government’s August 2022 operation to target and investigate these cyber scam operation compounds, traffickers have moved from Sihanoukville to more rural areas, including to other PRC-invested SEZs, where they encounter less scrutiny by the government and NGOs, and where victims have less chance of escape.Cambodian adults and children migrate to other countries within the region and increasingly to the Middle East for work; traffickers force many – often through debt-based coercion – to work on fishing vessels, in agriculture, in construction, in factories, and in domestic service or exploit them in sex trafficking. Migrants using irregular migration channels, predominantly with the assistance of unlicensed brokers, are at an increased risk of trafficking, although those using licensed recruiting agents also become victims of forced labor or sex trafficking. Companies operating under the auspices of the Japanese government’s “Technical Intern Training Program” have exploited Cambodian nationals in forced labor in food processing, manufacturing, construction, and fishing. Children from impoverished families are vulnerable to forced labor, often with the complicity of their families, including in domestic service and forced begging or street vending in Thailand and Vietnam. Undocumented Cambodian labor migrants working in Thailand – who constituted an estimated 30-40 percent of the 1.5 to two million Cambodians there before the pandemic – are at high risk of trafficking due to their immigration status, as are undocumented Cambodians working in Vietnam. The pandemic affected established migration patterns and certain sectors in 2020, such as construction, which placed some vulnerable groups at greater risk of trafficking than in previous years. Between February 2020 to February 2021, more than 150,000 Cambodian labor migrants returned to Cambodia from other countries, primarily Thailand, due to industry closures caused by the pandemic.

Traffickers continue to recruit significant numbers of Cambodian men and boys in Thailand to work on fishing boats and exploit them in forced labor on Thai-owned and -operated vessels in international waters. Cambodian victims escaping from their traffickers have been identified in Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, and South Africa. Cambodian men working on Thai-owned and -operated fishing vessels report deceptive recruitment tactics, severe physical abuse, underpayment or nonpayment of wages, restricted access to medical care, and confinement at sea for years at a time without permission to come ashore. Traffickers recruit women and some girls from rural areas under false pretenses to travel to the PRC to enter into marriages with PRC-national men. These women incur thousands of dollars of debt to brokers facilitating the transaction; the men force some of these women to work in factories or exploit them in sex trafficking to repay this debt. Some parents reportedly receive between $1,500 and $3,000 from marriage brokers to send their daughters to the PRC for marriage. Cambodian women serving willingly as illegal surrogates for PRC families are vulnerable to confinement and domestic servitude. Stateless persons, namely in ethnic Vietnamese communities, are at higher risk of trafficking due to lack of identity documentation necessary for access to formal employment, education, marriage registration, the court system, or the right to own land.

The proprietors of brick kilns subject many of the more than 10,000 Cambodians living at such kilns, including nearly 4,000 children, to multigenerational debt-based coercion, either by buying off their pre-existing loans, or by requiring them to take out new loans as a condition of employment or to cover medical expenses resulting from injuries incurred while working. NGO reports in 2016, 2019, and 2021 have confirmed cases of child labor – including forced child labor – in brick kilns, as children are forced to work alongside their parents through debt-based coercion. An extensive, largely unregulated network of predatory micro-finance organizations and private creditors contributes to this arrangement by proactively advertising loans to families in vulnerable communities and connecting them with the kilns. Rural farming families are at higher risk of this form of forced labor due to economic hardships ensuing from climate change; unseasonal rain patterns and subsequent loss of crops push many farmers to take out large loans for new irrigation or pesticide systems, and brick kiln owners often purchase these loans as a means of securing and retaining their labor. Extended rainy seasons also delay the brick-drying process, reducing these bonded kiln workers’ pay and forcing many to become further indebted to the kiln owners. To dissuade workers from fleeing abusive conditions, some kiln owners reportedly allow only select members of family units to be absent for public holidays or to seek medical care at any given time. Some workers report continued confinement and forced labor in the kilns long after they repaid their debts. Cambodian families may also experience conditions indicative of forced labor in the clay extraction process required for brick making. Traffickers exploit children as young as 13 in domestic servitude and in brothels to pay off family debts accrued through this system. Communities displaced by illegal logging operations supplying the brick kilns with timber for fuel may be at elevated risk of trafficking, including in logging itself and elsewhere as a result of ensuing economic hardships.

All of Cambodia’s 25 provinces are sources for human trafficking. Sex trafficking is largely clandestine; Cambodian and ethnic Vietnamese women and girls move from rural areas to cities and tourist destinations, where criminals exploit them in sex trafficking in brothels and, more frequently, clandestine sex establishments at beer gardens, massage parlors, salons, karaoke bars, retail spaces, and non-commercial sites. In recent years, the rapidly growing and largely unregulated presence of PRC national-owned casinos, entertainment establishments, and other commercial enterprises in Preah Sihanouk Province led to an increase of local sex trafficking and forced labor among Cambodian women and girls, although Cambodia’s 2020 ban on online gambling and the subsequent shuttering of many PRC national-owned casinos and other entertainment establishments has reduced such trafficking. Cambodian men form the largest source of demand for children exploited in sex trafficking; however, men from elsewhere in Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the United States travel to Cambodia to engage in child sex tourism, increasingly facilitated through social media contact. Thousands of urban children left behind by families migrating abroad for work are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. The prevalence of child sex trafficking and child sex tourism reportedly declined in 2020 due to reduced international travel and pandemic-related quarantine requirements. However, NGOs and law enforcement officials reported the pandemic increased incidents of online child sexual exploitation in 2020, and incidents continued to increase through 2022. Vietnamese women and children, many of whom are victims of debt-based coercion, travel to Cambodia and are exploited in sex trafficking. NGOs report criminal gangs transport some Vietnamese victims through Cambodia before they are exploited in Thailand and Malaysia. Traffickers in Cambodia are most commonly family or community members or small networks of independent brokers. Some Cambodian orphanages purchase local children from economically disadvantaged families and subject them to malnutrition and unclean living conditions in their facilities for the purpose of attracting and profiting from charitable donations; some of these children are at further risk of sex trafficking and domestic servitude as a result of poor government oversight of adoption processes.