Vietnam Voice05 Nov 2009, by Uncategorized in
In poverty-stricken Cambodia, undocumented Vietnamese are the single largest minority group The number of Vietnemese in the sex trade represents as high as 30% as the total number of commercial sex workers in Cambodia, including many of the youngest children. This is deisproportionately high when measured against the total number of Vietnamese residing in Cambodia.
Vietnam VOICE (the Vietnamese Overseas Initaitive for Conscience Empowerment) conducted extensive research and correspondence with charitable organizations in the field before opening a resource center in Siem Reap – a tourist site which sadly is also a worldwide center for trafficking and severe forms of child exploitation. They discovered that there are very limited services available to the undocumented Vietnamese. Prevention activities and services to trafficked and sexually exploited survivors do not come close to the need. All this is exacerbated by the lack of economic opportunities and access to safe and secure employment, rendering young Vietnamese girls even more vulnerable.
Vietnam Voice and their Senhoa jewelry program fills this gap by proving safe and secure employhment, while enrolling survivor in social integration programs. Survivors and very high risk women and teen are trained and paid to make jewelry, and are offered skills training in Business, Computers as well as non- formal education, including literacy, health education, and women’s rights/empowerment. VOICE also offers recreational therapeutic activites such as yoga, dance camping and team-building activities.
About Trafficking in Cambodia (from the Vietnam VOICE website)
Cambodia is ranked as a Tier II and on the Watch List by the State Department in their Trafficking in Person’s Report (TIP Report) dated June, 2009. According to TIP definitions, this means that the Cambodian government "does not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."
In the same report, it was noted that "Cambodia is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor." It is also known that, "Cambodia is a transit and destination point for women from Vietnam trafficked for sexual exploitation."
It should be noted here that in the 2005 TIP Report, Cambodia was rated as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of trafficking and placed under Tier III. Recent efforts by the Khmer government to address various aspects of the issue/s have led to the tier upgrade. However, the overall situation in Cambodia remains dire.
THE ‘VIETNAMESE’ FACTOR
The case for Vietnamese living in urban Cambodia with respect to trafficking and sexual exploitation is even more disconcerting. The longstanding history of animosity between Vietnam and Cambodia has resulted in social ostracism and anti-Vietnamese sentiments throughout the entire country. This is further dampened by the fact that the majority of Vietnamese who reside in Cambodia do not have ‘legal Cambodian papers’ (such as ID card, passport, family book)1 and it is virtually impossible for them to be recognized as citizens of Cambodia.2 Coupled with collective ‘push factors’ (see below), being Vietnamese in Cambodia alone exacerbates their vulnerability to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This is manifested in the fact that the Vietnamese make up a large number of total commercial sex workers in Cambodia. The number of Vietnamese who work in the commercial sex industry has been estimated to range from 6 – 30 percent of the total population of Vietnamese living in Cambodia.3 Although there is strenuous debate over the actual number of commercial sex workers, few would dispute that Vietnamese comprise a significant proportion of the female commercial sex workers in Cambodia, a number disproportionately high to the total number of Vietnamese living in Cambodia.4
There are many reasons why families would sell their children for labor and prostitution. Although the issue of poverty underlies any discussion about the sale of children, research has shown that there is no clear, single, or overriding tipping point.5 Instead, the decision to sell a child is always nestled on a combined matrix of factors. These include:
- Poverty as a contributing factor;
- Crisis or extra-ordinary expense (eg. Healthcare expenses from when a family member falls ill);
- Normalization (so common is the occurrence that it has become a ‘subculture’);
- Family reputation/family honor
- Cultural perspectives of women
VOICE & TRAFFICKING IN CAMBODIA
There are some religious and non-government organizations (NGOs) operating in Cambodia, as well as some government services that reaches the Vietnamese. However, they are not always well-equipped to accommodate Vietnamese – very few NGOs employ Vietnamese-speakers, and fewer have ethnic Vietnamese on staff. There is a lack of information, education and communication materials available in Vietnamese language, and little attempts have been made to creatively address cultural differences.8 Finally, their lack of legal status precludes Vietnamese from access many government services.
VOICE’s work in Cambodia aims to provide direct social, educational, financial and medical services to women and children who are sexually exploited or those vulnerable to trafficking.