Chairman Royce Highlights Cambodia’s Human Trafficking Failures

Feb 12, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and long-time leader on human trafficking issues, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to express serious concern regarding the Cambodian Supreme Court’s recent acquittal of Eam Rattana, former chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police Unit.  In 2011, Rattana was sentenced to seven years in prison for human trafficking and the prostitution of minors.

In a letter to Kerry, Chairman Royce wrote, “It was troubling enough that former Major Rattana fled prosecution and remained at large throughout this timeframe.  His problematic acquittal was reportedly rendered during an unannounced hearing of the Cambodian Supreme Court, without notice to any of the parties.  This episode represents a new level of sanctioned impunity that will discourage and intimidate trafficking survivors, nongovernmental organizations, and officials working to combat the scourge of human trafficking in Cambodia.”

Note:  Chairman Royce is the author of H.R. 3344, the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination (FORTE) Act of 2013The legislation combats the growing problem of international human trafficking by requiring overseas labor recruiters to provide detailed employment information to overseas workers, to avoid the bait-and-switch into slave labor or sexual slavery once they enter the U.S., and creating additional penalties and enforcement mechanisms.  Last year, Chairman Royce held a number of hearings on human trafficking, including a field hearing to examine international human trafficking and to assess efforts to combat trafficking at the international, Federal, State and local levels.  He also launched a Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee (HTCAC) to address human trafficking concerns, as well as offer policy recommendations; the HTCAC is comprised of victims’ rights groups, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and community advocates. 

The signed letter is available HERE

The text of the letter follows:    

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write to register my grave concern regarding the Cambodian Supreme Court’s recent acquittal of Eam Rattana, former chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police Unit, which reversed his December 2011 conviction for human trafficking and the prostitution of minors, for which he had been sentenced to seven years in prison.

It was troubling enough that former Major Rattana fled prosecution and remained at large throughout this timeframe.  His problematic acquittal was reportedly rendered during an unannounced hearing of the Cambodian Supreme Court, without notice to any of the parties.  This episode represents a new level of sanctioned impunity that will discourage and intimidate trafficking survivors, nongovernmental organizations, and officials working to combat the scourge of human trafficking in Cambodia.

Just as the original 2011 prosecution was cited by the Department as a hopeful sign in public testimony to Congress,[1] this troubling acquittal merits public comment by U.S. officials, and should be raised at the highest levels of the Cambodian government, not just with Cambodian officials responsible for human trafficking issues.  Because this episode bears directly on Cambodia’s compliance with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, I expect that it will merit discussion and affect Cambodia’s tier ranking in the Department’s upcoming, annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

I would appreciate hearing about developments in this case, including information regarding when – and at what levels – U.S. officials have conveyed concerns to the Government of Cambodia.  Thank you very much for your attention to this serious human rights issue.

Sincerely,

EDWARD R. ROYCE
Chairman

 

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