Saturday, December 11, 2004

U.S. Department of State Condemns Attack on Shelter for Trafficking Victims

The United States strongly condemns the December 8 attack in Phnom Penh on the non-governmental organization, Agir pour les Femmes En Situation Précaire--Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP). This NGO, which receives U.S. and international assistance, provides shelter and support to trafficking victims in Cambodia. Armed assailants abducted all but one of the 91 women and children under AFESIP's care. Just one day earlier, Cambodia's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department under General Un Sokunthea had rescued 84 of them from a hotel notorious as a brothel for sex trafficking of children. We are deeply troubled that eight of the hotel's operators who had been arrested on December 7 were subsequently released and reportedly participated in the attack on AFESIP.

The United States is very concerned about the safety and well being of these women and children. The Cambodian government must take immediate and urgent action to locate, rescue and protect them. It must also take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of AFESIP and all others involved in safeguarding trafficking victims. We call upon the Cambodian government to thoroughly investigate this case and ensure that those responsible are held accountable and brought to justice.

We applaud the brave actions taken by Cambodia's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department and call on the Government to give this unit and its leader full support in fighting trafficking and related corruption.